Fake news has become one of the greatest societal menaces. There are ‘five-star journalists’ who have started thinking that they can lie with impunity perhaps to further their political agenda that they cover so carefully behind the veil of neutrality. And then, when they are called out for their malicious lies, they cry “troll”, “vendetta” or plain “hate”. The cacophony demanding action against such malicious lies has grown louder over the years. In fact, the government itself faced severe criticism for treating the media with kid gloves.
Finally, the government and specifically the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has come out with circular that might potentially put an end to the fake news menace once and for all.
The Government now seems to have amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists. Now, 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 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.
The circular ends with an interesting “it would be obligatory for journalists to abide by these guidelines”. Which is to say, these rules and regulations that now seem to be enforceable won’t be optional for journalists if they wish to retain their accreditation.
With these stringent rules in place, the volume of fake news might certainly come down.