Government clamps down on those reporting ‘fake news’, says no advertisements for them

Narendra Modi led central government seems all set to amend clause 25 of the New Print Media Advertisement Policy, 2016 which deals with the issue of suspension and recovery. The amendment aims to stop the release of DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) advertisements to those outlets which indulge in “unethical” reporting.

It is reported that the proposed amendments to the clause include provisions to take punitive action against news published out of “bad intent” and “fake news”. While “bad intent” and “fake news” are not explicitly defined, whether a news report will invite punitive action remains open to interpretation by DAVP officials. It is reported that action can also be taken against a newspaper if the Press Council of India finds a publication indulging in “anti-national” activities.

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.

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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.

In October, the ministry was 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 Ministry of Information & Broadcasting 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 freedom of the press and for maintaining and improving the standards of press in India.

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