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Smriti Irani cracks down on fake news peddlers, senior journalists have a very public meltdown

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Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

In what one would believe is a welcome step, the journalism fraternity has done the complete opposite as soon as new guidelines were announced to crack a whip on fake news. The journalists who are always riding the high horse with regards to fake news and were celebrating the arrest of Mahesh Hegde for the same, are suddenly outraging when the government is finally taking steps to ensure fake news are curbed. According to the circular, if a journalist is found peddling fake news, he or she may lose accreditation from 6 months to permanently.

In July 2017, Abusive troll masquerading as a journalist wrote about how fake news is messing with our minds.

In June 2017, She also believed spreading fake news is not equal to freedom of expression.

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In 2018, the moment guidelines are announced which can possibly tackle fake news at least spread by accredited journalists, Chaturvedi loses her cool and calls it an anti-democracy and an anti free press move.

Could it have something to do with the fact that she herself was caught spreading fake news about BJP-RSS ‘tussle’?

Moving on, under normal circumstances, self proclaimed Nehru fangirl Sagarika Ghose believes fake news is one of the political manipulation techniques. This revelation is from 11th March 2018. Not so long ago.

However, less than a month after she tweeted about it, she calls the steps taken to curb fake news as ‘serious assault on the press’.

And then indulge in whataboutery because one wrong makes the other right.

Could this be because she herself has at one point tweeted an unverified (read: fake) news regarding ‘mob hunting and killing of Muslims across India’ which she had to delete after being warned of police action?

But Ghose’s fears of using Twitter as a tool of manipulations by politicians and some journalists with vested interest are not unfounded. Example, journalist Rohini Singh, who has also turned into part-time bully on Twitter, and seems to have wiped off her digital footprints before joining the leftist propaganda website The Wire, which regularly spreads half-truths and whole lies, tried to use Twitter to show how the BJP is losing in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections last year.

So much was the backlash after BJP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh that Rohini deactivated her account only to emerge almost a year later with her digital footprints of her glorious fangirling deleted. Her argument against crackdown on fake news is that ‘citizens have the right to know’.

And we’ve all seen what Rohini has to say to the citizens.

Amidst all this, Shekhar Gupta, whose digital publication The Print, has been referred to as ‘sick journalism‘ and accused of indulging in spinning sensational stories, has referred to the new guidelines as ‘breathtaking assault on mainstream media’.

Let me remind Gupta of the one night in January when Raisina Hills was so spooked because two units of the Indian Army had ‘moved’ towards Delhi without notifying the government, casting aspersions that India was having its own military coup, earning Gupta the monicker of ‘Coupta‘. Why should this assault on our collective intelligence be gone unpunished?

Another journalist to take a high moral ground was Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV, who was accused by Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu of having an agenda of ‘sensationalism‘. He was joined in his concerns by London-based ‘journalist’ Salil Tripathi.

Not so long ago, NDTV had pulled down an article written by Jain and he tried to take a moral high ground instead of accepting that his article could be erroneous or defamatory. Tripathi has very recently shared a picture of girl claiming to be the NCC Cadet and also associated with ABVP, student with of the RSS, claiming to be the same who had asked Congress President Rahul Gandhi an uncomfortable question. The profile later turned out to be fake.

Moving on. Pallavi Ghose, journalist whose sycophancy towards The Family is pretty evident, has in the past shown her disdain toward ‘fake news’ about Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

However, in her defence, she did talk about nuances between ‘wrong news’ and ‘fake news’, especially after the channel she works for had published fake news about terrorist Hafiz Saeed’s ‘arrest’.

Perhaps the fact that she herself has spread fake news about ‘gang rape’ over eating beef in UP is the reason she is maintaining stoic silence.

In fact, even Rana Ayyub, the veteran fake news peddler jumped into the fray and criticised the regulations.

Rana is the same journalist who spread sensational lies about the West Bengal nun rape. She deliberately told a lie with the insidious intent of promoting enmity between communities and fomenting communal violence. She violated every conceivable law. So have media houses which still host her creed. She is a pathological and congenital liar whose entire perverse intention is to sow disharmony. She has an evil mind that works overtime to invent new lies, to manufacture fake news, to market her tripe among unsuspecting people, to poison impressionable minds, to plant hate, and to smear individuals and institutions with her grubby dirty hands. Is that why she was upset with the regulations?

Politicians, too, weren’t behind in getting into panic mode. Congress leader Ahmed Patel too voiced his concerns about misuse of the law.

Section 66A of the IT Amendment Act, brought in by Congress’ former union minister Kapil Sibal which could land you in jail for an ‘offensive‘ tweet, says hello.

As per the new guidelines issued, on receiving information of fake news, the information will be forwarded to Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media, and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it pertains to electronic media. The circular says that the complaint needs to be resolved within 15 days by these regulating agencies. Once the complaint has been registered with the concerned agency, the accreditation of the concerned journalist will be suspended till the resolution of the complaint. PIB, which consists of representatives of PCI and NBA will be reached out for any accreditation requests by journalists.

If the complaint of such fake news is found to be true, in the first instance, the accreditation of the said journalist would be cancelled for 6 months. On the second instance, the cancellation period would increase to 1 year, and on the 3rd strike, the journalist who spread or propagated the fake news would lose their accreditation permanently.

While examining the request for accreditation, the agencies would examine if the journalist adheres to the “Norms of Journalistic Conduct” and “Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards” prescribed by PCI and NBA are adhered to by the journalist as a part of functioning.

PCI and NBA are independent bodies, not governed by the government of India, yet the champions of fake news busters prior to the announcement are crying government interference.

The NBA has illustrious members from the journalist fraternity heading the agency. President of NBA is the veteran, Rajat Sharma. In fact, even Sonia Singh of NDTV is a member of the board. One wonders why these “journalists” have an issue with their own peers deciding if an accredited member has spread fake news or not? And when the agency consists of their peers, how is the government going to interfere with the process?

In fact, the Journalists Code and Ethics were formulated in 2008 by the UPA government. Perhaps their concern is not the rulebook but the enforcement of the rule book which has been lacklustre so far?

Not so shockingly, ‘journalists’ have also changed their stand on independence of NBA after last night’s announcement.

Left: Sagarika on NBA under UPA. Right: Sagarika on NBA under NDA.

So don’t they trust one of their own or is it their guilty conscience talking?

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed in Press Council of India.

Hopefully, the PCI will address the matter and broaden the spectrum to include even those who are not accredited and does not have to wait for a complaint to be filed to take the action.

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Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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