Smriti Irani, the union minister for Information & Broadcasting has decided that she will not treat ‘fake news’ by the mainstream media outlets casually. Within days of her assuming charge of the ministry, she had taken news agency PTI to task for spreading fake pictures of flooded Ahmedabad airport.
PTI was taken to task again by the Press Information Bureau for spreading misleading information about compulsory Aadhar ID for obtaining death certificate, and they received flak from Ms. Irani yet again when they had tweeted an absurd photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Now the minister and ministry are back in action, and this time it is due to the newspaper The Hindu, which recently drew a lot of flak on social media for claiming that a dying woman – a victim of stampede at Elphinstone railway station of Mumbai suburban rail network – was molested by a bystander. Later, it was found that the bystander was actually trying to help the dying woman, not molest her.
The Hindu reporter had used just an 8-second video clip to make this sensational claim, whereas it was found that a longer 40 seconds video was available, which showed that the bystander was not trying to molest any stampede victim. In fact, he was a good samaritan trying to help the stampede victims.
Whether the video was maliciously edited by the reporter, or the reporter fell for the edited video is not known, but The Hindu apologized and withdrew the story after massive outrage.
But was a simple apology enough? That’s what most of the social media users asked, and it now appears that Smriti Irani too agrees with the common users. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is believed to have expressed their displeasure at the whole turn of events and conveyed the same to Press Council of India, which is a central statutory authority for preserving the freedom of the press and for maintaining and improving the standards of press in India.
Earlier today, Press Council of India issued a ‘show cause notice’ to the editor of The Hindu and asked the newspaper to explain their position within 14 days in writing.
In a separate press release, the council noted that the molestation story was “highly irresponsible” and subsequent action (withdrawal of the story and issuing of an apology) was not enough to mitigate the damage done.
The show-cause notice by the council has been issued under Section 14 of the Press Council Act, 1978, which empowers the council to hold an inquiry if the council believes that the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste has been offended, or that an editor or working journalist has committed any professional misconduct.
Although press council of India will decide on any action after The Hindu responds to the show-cause notice, OpIndia.com has learnt that the ministry believes that the newspaper should be penalized by stopping government ads for a period of two weeks as an exemplary action.