SEEING the government’s withdrawal of the I&B ministry’s punish journalist directive as a temporary reprieve and a damage control exercise, the National Alliance of Journalists and Delhi Union of Journalists, in a statement issued on April 4, have called for a vigilance day next week . This is taking into account the fact that the Press Council is toothless and a democratic all-encompassing Media Council of India is the need of the hour. The statement followed the government withdrawal announcement on April 3. Earlier the bodies, after thanking various political parties for their support for demanding withdrawal, said in a statement:
“The National Alliance of Journalists and the Delhi Union of Journalists castigate the information & broadcasting ministry’s ominous moves to deny PIB accreditation to journalists who are accused of spreading ‘fake news’. We question the motivation behind the amendment of guidelines for accreditation. Accreditation is a facility that provides journalists vital access to government offices and officials. We observe that the NDA government has increasingly restricted journalists’ access to ministers and officials, seriously hampering the gathering of news and information and leading to a lack of transparency. We fear that the latest amendments may be misused to target, blacklist and punish individual journalists of the print and electronic and other media who do not concur with the government’s views on various matters. Media owners and managers, who dictate editorial policies, will not take the rap, it is journalists who will be in the firing line for stories inconvenient to the authorities.
The government is well aware that the vast majority of fake news is not spread by accredited journalists but by dubious websites and social media apps. It has ignored trolling and rampant abuse on social media, it has not acted on repeated threats to journalists, including many women journalists. Instead it wishes to curb the freedom of accredited correspondents to access information and report freely and fearlessly. We warn against such an ill-advised move and demand that the previous guidelines which have served well in the past, be restored immediately to begin with. We call upon all journalists unions and associations to oppose such amendments collectively.