After "Fake News" Order, Nominations To Media Watchdog Spark Row

The Press Council of India is a statutory quasi-judicial 28-member body led by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. Eight members, to be selected by the government, have already been notified

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After 'Fake News' Order, Nominations To Media Watchdog Spark Row

Media groups will meet on Saturday to discuss issues about nominations to Press Council of India


New Delhi:  Journalists, editors and media managers and owners will meet tomorrow to take a common stand on issues with the constitution of media watchdog Press Council of India (PCI) and the Central Press Accreditation Committee (CPAC). Both media bodies, in the process of being reconstituted, have been called into question.

The PCI has recently drawn attention after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting's notification on fake news. The controversial notification that prescribed the suspension of journalists' accreditation for publishing fake news drew outrage from the media community for holding the potential to act like a gag order.

While the controversial order was withdrawn at the behest of the Prime Minister's Office, the Prime Minister also tasked the PCI with addressing the problem of fake news.

The PCI is a statutory quasi-judicial 28-member body led by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. Eight members, to be selected by the government, have already been notified. These include five parliamentarians - four from the BJP and one from the AIADMK .

This year's list includes BJP lawmaker Pratap Simha, who supported the founder of Postcard News when he was arrested for sharing "fake news".

While the 20 other names, made up of seven working journalists, six editors, six media owners or managers and one news agency manager, have been notified, this list is being challenged. The Editors' Guild has made a statement saying it is dissatisfied with the disqualification of its nominees for the council.

The Indian Newspapers' Society (INS), a body with top newspaper owners as its members, has gone to the Delhi High Court to challenge the PCI's rejection of one of its candidates. The INS has received a stay on the PCI order till July, which means at least one seat will remain challenged until then. Working journalists' associations were also asked to refile their nominations by the chairman, further delaying the selection process.

The new CPAC has also drawn criticism from the media fraternity, as it has been reduced from 25 to 8 members. While media associations made recommendations for at least 12 of these positions, this year these nominations were invited but rejected. Instead, the government named five media persons on its own, some of whom have drawn allegations of bias towards the government.

Two positions will be filled by representatives of the Press Council of India and the National Broadcasters Association, who are still to be selected. The CPAC is chaired by the Director General of the Press Information Bureau, who currently is Frank Noronha and will be replaced by Sitanshu Kar on May 1.


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