India withdraws its plan to punish journalists for fake news

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The Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday ordered the withdrawal of rules punishing journalists held to be responsible for distributing fake news less than a day after the original announcement.

Journalists and position politicians were against the move. They said that the rule is a direct or indirect attack on freedom of the press and a move by Modi’s government to rule free speech ahead of the 2019 general elections.

“The prime minister has directed the press statement about fake news be withdrawn and the matter to be addressed in the press council of India and the news broadcasters association,” a senior official in PMO told the media.

On Monday, the information and broadcast ministry had said the government would cancel its accreditation of journalists who peddled ‘fake news’.

The ministry announced the withdrawal in a one-line statement after Modi’s intervened. Media bodies welcomed the decision but warned the government from controlling them.

President of the Press Club of India, Gautam Lahiri told, “The government has no mandate to control the press.”

He added that the media were also worried about growing incidents of ‘fake news’.

“The press council is the right platform to deal with complaints regarding any fake news.”

The event followed after Malaysia’s approval this week of a law prescribing jail terms of up to six years for spreading fake news.

India’s rules proposed to strip journalists guilty of writing or broadcasting “fake news” of their government accreditations, either for a limited time or permanently, depending on the frequency of infringements, the ministry said.

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