Prashant Dayal: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently declared that if any journalist is found spreading fake news, his/her press accreditation will be canceled permanently. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had no problems with journalists when they wrote against the government during the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) regime of Indian National Congress. The current NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government of the BJP has failed to fulfill the promises it had made during the 2014 general elections. But after being in power for four years at the center, instead of looking at the mirror and procrastinating on what went wrong, they're blaming the mirror on why it is showing a terrible reflection to them.

For those who are unaware, the central and state governments grant accreditation to journalists, which is an official recognition or certification for scribes. For a journalist to get accreditation, he/she has to first get a letter of recommendation from the media house/newspaper's editor or head, and upon its submission, the state information and broadcasting department and the press information bureau grants the journalist an accreditation card. But so far only 2 percent of the total number of active journalists in Gujarat and India hold this accreditation card, most of them who are senior journalists.

According to the newly amended guidelines for accreditation of journalists, the center on Monday said that those journalists who are found generating or creating fake news will have their accreditation suspended for 6 months in case of a first-time offense. If he/she repeats the offense for the second time, the accreditation of the journalist will get suspended for a year and if the scribe is found out to continue committing this offense for the third instance, his/her accreditation gets canceled permanently. Now do this card provide any special benefits to the journalists? Do they get their children's tuition fees waived off? get fuel at a cheaper rate? get a pension from the state or center? The answer to all these questions is NO! The scribes holding the accreditation card do get some relief for traveling on state transport buses and railways, but the ones who hold this card have grown so exponentially in their journalistic career that now they possess their own cars and afford to fly in flights. Bottomline, this card is no way attractive to any journalist now.

The government is thumping its chest over this newly announced decision as if it has literally destroyed the menace of fake news in one go. 98 percent of the journalist who doesn't hold this card is anyway doing a great job, so it doesn't matter to them if they get a card or not. They're going to continue working as they've been doing before. The government that makes a decision on what or how a journalist works, should rather work towards something where it decides on what their ministers should do or how they should work. Here's what happened before the general elections: "Every citizen will get Rs15 lakhs deposited in their accounts," the minister's said and the journalists wrote. "Billions of rupees stashed away in the Swiss bank accounts will be brought back," the ministers said and the journalists wrote. Did any of this happen? No.. So basically, wasn't this fake news that was written on the basis of the lies our so-called leaders spoke?

Now that the land beneath their feet has begun to tremble with the journalists nailing their lies, they've resorted to accusing the journalists of spreading false news. The journalists are still doing their job. It's only the governments that have changed over the years. They can threaten the journalists, attack them and even get some of them killed, but the government must keep this in their minds that a journalist will keep writing until his last breath.

Read this story in Gujarati