‘GoM Report Illustrates Govt’s Draconian Attitude’: Editors Guild

The editors body noted that the GoM was formed completely unprovoked.

2 min read
Image for representational purposes.

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Tuesday, 9 March, released a statement expressing dismay at the way a group of ministers (GoM) had prepared a roadmap illustrating how to control the narrative about the government in the media.

“The EGI expresses shock and disbelief at the manner in which a group of ministers (GoM) has prepared a report with an embedded toolkit to control the narrative about the government in the media,” the statement read.

The editors body noted that the GoM was formed completely unprovoked and during a time when “various press freedom and democracy indices show a rapid slide.”

Condemning the motivations behind the report, the statement further read that it “illustrates the government’s increasingly draconian attitude against any critique and inquiry by the press.”

It added, “The suggestions from the GoM report hint at increased surveillance and targeting of writers and journalists who depart from the government’s narrative.”

Corroborating this claim, the statement cited that a suggestion in the report referring to the development of a ‘strategy to neutralise the people who are writing against the government without facts and set false narratives/spread fake news,’ is particularly disturbing as, “In the absence of any clarity on what will constitute fake news and the process to be followed, such observations smack of an intention to simply muzzle any criticism of the government.”

The statement expressed “major concern” on the report, saying that the EGI demands “the government, which is supposed to safeguard constitutional values of freedom of expression, should make it clear that it is committed to the plurality of views in the media.”

What is the Roadmap?

The BJP government’s introduction of the new IT rules, which intend to regulate social media and digital news platforms, may have been part of a roadmap planned out by a GoM during June and July 2020, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recently accessed report showed.

The roadmap reportedly aims to: 1) effectively disseminate government policies, programs and achievements, 2) strengthen communication strategies, 3) timely disseminate ‘authentic and factual’ news as well as curb ‘fake news’, and lastly 4) project India’s international image.

The GoM comprises top Union Cabinet ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar, and S Jaishankar, as well as Ministers of State Kiren Rijiju, Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur, and Babul Supriyo.

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