Journos, Opposition Shoot Down Smriti Irani’s ‘Fake News’ Circular

The circular led to 15 hours of drama on twitter, with fiery exchanges between the minister and senior journalists.

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It took merely 15 hours for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under Smriti Irani to issue and withdraw a fake news directive.

Irnai’s Information and Broadcasting ministry had on Monday, 2 April, announced amendments to the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists, saying a journalist's accreditation could be permanently cancelled if he or she is found generating or propagating fake news.

The government, however, took a U-Turn after the Prime Minister’s Office ordered the Ministry to withdraw its press release on fake news, holding that the decision on what constitutes fake news should be left to press bodies.

The interim 15-hour period saw a lot of drama and outrage on social media over the directive, with fiery exchanges between the minister and senior journalists, and voices supporting the move.

Minutes after the circular was released, it spread like wildfire on Twitter, with journalists lashing out at the Centre for the move. From calling it a media gag, to terming the move the “death of news”, several journalists expressed their disappointment and anger.


According to the directive’s ‘amended’ guidelines for the accreditation of journalists, if the publication or telecast of fake news was confirmed, the accreditation of that journalist would be suspended for six months in the first violation and for one year in case of a second violation.

In case of a third violation, his or her accreditation would be cancelled permanently, the ministry said in the release.

The guidelines drew a sharp reaction from the Congress and and other political leaders.

Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit questioned the definition fake news, and condemned the directive that implied the ‘killing of democracy’.

What is the definition of fake news? In a democratic system, restricting mediais equal to killing democracy. Today, we only get to see news that is pro-government.India has believed in free media and that should continue.
Sheila Dikshit, Former Delhi CM

Shiv Sena MP, Sanjay Raut said “Media has played the most significant role in propagating the vision of PM Modi. Media that can help you climb to the top, can also pull you down.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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