Identification of fake news: Govt plans to give more powers to PIB

Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Photo: File Image/ PTI

New Delhi: The central government has revealed its plans to introduce rules that will enable the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in identifying fake or inaccurate news on government bodies. It has also indicated that the powers of the PIB will not be diluted.

According to reports, Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said any social media intermediary who does not comply with fact-checking policy or refuses to take down misinformation under IT rules will "lose its immunity status".

"So any dispute on misinformation or any other clause will be a direct dispute between the aggrieved person and platform in a court,” a national media reported.

In an earlier statement, the minister had drawn out PIB's powers to raise red flags on fake news. "PIB will be the fact checker when it comes to checking the government-related news, while to fact check non-government-related news, a self-regulatory organisation will be formed," he had said.

Meanwhile, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said the government does not subscribe to the views and country rankings of the World Press Freedom Index, published by foreign NGO Reporters Without Borders.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Thakur said the government also does not agree with the conclusions drawn by this organization for various reasons including very low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy and adoption of a methodology which is questionable and non-transparent.

"In pursuance of its policy to uphold the freedom of the press, the government does not interfere in the functioning of the press," the minister said in response to a question by YSRCP member Adala Prabhakar Reddy.

He said the Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory autonomous body, has been set up to preserve the freedom of the press and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country. PCI considers complaints filed 'by the Press' concerning curtailment of press freedom, and physical assault/attack on journalists under Section 13 of the Press Council Act, Thakur said.

PCI is also empowered to take suo motu cognizance in matters on the pressing issues concerning freedom of the press and safeguarding of its high standards, he said.

The Editors Guild of India has already expressed deep concern over the move to empower the PIB. In an open letter to the ministry, it said the move would tantamount to government sponsorship. 

"Already multiple laws exist to deal with content that is found to be factually incorrect. This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press, and will give sweeping powers to the PIB to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic," the Editors Guild said.

The Editors Guild is an association of news editors in the country.

(With inputs from PTI)

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