Discipline and punish

Discipline and punish

What followed the Indian government's botched attempt to control free press under the pretext of purging 'fake news'.

Chhetria Patrakar is Himal's roving media critic.

Photo: UKinIndia / Flickr
Photo: UKinIndia / Flickr
The Modi government's double take on the directive to punish purveyors of fake news was interesting, not least for the variety of reactions it spawned. Although sections of the pro-Modi rightwing have been known to be amongst the chief purveyors of false facts, they, and the community of journalists, were under no illusion about how the directive would be used – to silence critical media.
Smriti Irani, who made the news in the past for her fake degree, and under whom the Information and Broadcasting Ministry brought out the 'fake-news' directive, decided to make the most of the rescinding of the directive by calling for post facto consultations on the directive.

Media baron Vineet Jain, known for pioneering the paid-news business model of media through the Times of India, also took to the social media for some epistemological critique of that famously slippery category, 'fake news'.

While his contention that genuine inaccuracies in media should not be equated with fake news was a good idea, one wonders where in the spectrum Jain would place 'paid news,' often seen in the pages of his own paper.
All this comes soon after Irani's skirmish last month with Prasar Bharati, a statutory public broadcasting body in India, when she withheld employees' salaries due to her disagreement with the organisation. Now on her wish list is a legislation to regulate online media. But then, for Irani, courting bad press has always been a matter of habit.
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