NEW DELHI: Former Union Minister has heavily criticized the NDA government on Tuesday for the cancelled order by the government to punish those journalists for ‘fake news’. He alleged that the government attempted to ‘suppress’ the media and he guessed that in future there will be more such attempts to control media.
Mr Shourie also doubted about the Prime Minister being unaware of the controversial press accreditation guidelines order issued by Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani. It was seen as brazen attempt to curb the freedom of the Press media.
“How can it be? When not a leaf moves but by his will. … You think that such a far reaching order could have been drafted without the PMO,” the one-time admirer of PM Narendra Modi said.
But according to him, the lesson learnt from the episode was that, any attempt by the government to do something similar, “each time there should be a tsunami of backlash that they withdraw”.
The Prime Minister Office had cancelled the order on Tuesday due to the massive outrage at the guidelines that helped the authorities to automatically suspend a journalist’s accreditation once a complaint is received that a news report was a ‘fake’ one.
The facility of accreditation card issued by the Press Information Bureau gives journalists permission to government buildings and official events.
As per the government understanding, the order relating to the accreditation had been formulated to check what it had called the “increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media”.
Mr Shourie is an expert in economics and wrote for the Indian Express against attack on civil liberties during Emergency before becoming its editor in chief. He disputed the government’s intentions.
“The first thing to realize is that such measures of the government have absolutely nothing to do with the stated objective because they are the biggest perpetrators of the fake news,” Mr Shourie said.
Mr Shourie went on suggesting the government that if it was serious about stopping fake news as per its proclamation, it would have initiated strict action against the authors of fake news that had been called out by fact-checking websites such as Alt News. “And nothing has happened ever to any one of them,” he said.
“Therefore, please be sure this has nothing to do with fake news. It is another instrument the government is acquiring to suppress the press,” the former BJP leader told News Reporters.
Mr Shourie said the answer to fake news is truth. “Always stick to the truth… Give out the truth,” he said.
The former editor also gave a caution notice to the media against suggestions that the press council or other committees should have the power to act against media.
“Never fall for this idea of autonomous organization… Just look at the condition of so-called autonomous organizations in the country. What have they done to RBI (Reserve Bank of India) … Even EC (Election Commission) is under a cloud,” he said, talking about the effort to control the media as a reflection of admission that the government’s “great skill” at managing headlines had run its course.
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