Modi ruled out punishment forwarding series of fake news, India moves a step forward or a step backward?
Free press plays a major role in the well-functioning of a democracy, for it is considered as the Fourth State. Wednesday 3 April 2018 has been a landmark for the Indian Press, freedom of information and freedom of expression. Modi’s Government had ruled out the laws which punished journalists for publishing “false news”.
This decision is a result of long fight led by journalists and opposition Congress politicians, claiming that some laws still curtailed freedom of expression and free press. The Cabinet decision to withdraw actions taken against journalists for the publication of fake news was more or less welcomed by the press. Despite acknowledging this move as a key contribution to journalism, reporters also claim this withdrawal as “a trial balloon” for Modi’s government to put greater restrictions on the press.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Information Press Bureau, had published an official press release cancelling punishment upon guidelines pertaining the Accreditation of Journalists Amended to Regulate Fake News, released one day earlier.
According to the Press Club, press freedom should not be compromised as it would act as a deadlock to democracy and constitutional rights. Notwithstanding journalists’ opposition to State’s intervention, the press also holds the duty to publish accurate and factual information. Verification of data is crucial to effective and responsible reporting. For, one’s right stops where the other’s rights starts.