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.
PIB Accreditation Guidelines asking Press Council of India & News Broadcasters Association to define & act against ‘fake news’ have generated debate. Several journalists & organisations have reached out giving positive suggestions regarding the same. 1/2
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) April 3, 2018
.@MIB_India is more than happy to engage with journalist body or organisation/s wanting to give suggestions so that together we can fight the menace of ‘fake news’ & uphold ethical journalism. Interested journalists and/or organisations may feel free to meet me at @MIB_India. 2/2 — Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) April 3, 2018
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’.
‘Fake news’ is ‘news’ that’s been created with CONSCIOUS knowledge that it’s not true. It is unacceptable. It’s a menace on social media. It is diff from inaccurate reporting, which can be corrected (with apologies if it hurts someone).Editors Guild, NBA should define fake news.
— Vineet jain (@vineetjaintimes) April 3, 2018
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.