The information and Broadcasting ministry’s order to punish journalists, which was immediately rescinded following backlash, might be just the beginning and the government may try to "suppress" media further, said former Union Minister Arun Shourie.
The Prime Minister’s office, which was reportedly not kept in the loop, had asked the I&B ministry to take down the order, which Shourie said was an attempt at kite-flying.
Talking to a news channel, Shourie said. "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," he told the NDTV.
The I&B Ministry headed by Smriti Irani on Monday evening had come out with new rules for journalists' accreditation, allowing regulatory bodies to assume a journalist accused of writing fake news to be guilty until proven innocent -- which goes against cardinal principles of justice. Any complaint resulted in immediate suspension of accreditation of journalists for 15 days.
As per the amended guidelines for the accreditation of journalists, if the publication or telecast of fake news is confirmed, the accreditation of that journalist would be suspended for a period of six months in the first violation and can be cancelled for repeat violations.
A PIB accreditation facilitates a journalist to attend the government press conferences and visit ministries.Terming the circular moved by Smriti Irani led ministry a clear attempt to "suppress" the media and muzzle dissent, Shourie told the news channel that more such attempts would follow.
Arun Shourie--a journalist turned politician who reported extensively against brazen attack on civil liberty during the dark period of Emergency--also disputed the government claims of coming on heavinly on the menace of "fake news". He said that if the government was serious in regards with battling circulation of fake news, it should have already taken action against the fake news authors named and shamed on various social media sites.
Tearing into the NDA governmnet for the seemingly authoritarian diktat, Shourie said that it was evident that the government is using "fake news" as an alibi to tighten the noose around independent media.
He also called the Modi-led government the biggest perpetrator of fake news. "The first thing to realise 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," he said.