BJP MP Who Defended Fake News Editor Is Part Of Top Media Watchdog

Pratap Simha had defended Mahesh Hegde. Multiple central ministers recently promoted a fake news checking website called the True Picture.

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Pratap Simha was among the BJP parliamentarians who tweeted in Mahesh Hegde's support.

New Delhi:  Overruling his minister Smriti Irani's order to punish journalists for fake news, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the matter should be left to the media watchdog Press Council of India, which includes journalists and lawmakers nominated by the government.

The Press Council, which has limited powers, was reconstituted by the government on March 16.

Among the members nominated by the Lok Sabha Speaker is Pratap Simha, a BJP parliamentarian who strongly defended Karnataka-based editor Mahesh Hegde, who was arrested for fake news last week.

Mahesh Hedge, the founder-editor of Postcard News, was arrested in Karnataka for falsely reporting the injuries of a Jain monk and calling it an attack by a Muslim man. The monk was, however, injured in a road accident.

Pratap Simha was among the BJP parliamentarians who tweeted in Mahesh Hegde's support.
    
The tweets contrast with the government's statement last night justifying new guidelines to punish journalists for fake news.

Acknowledging the Prime Minister's quick rollback of the widely condemned order, the Editors' Guild said it was "deeply disturbed" at the government's selection of the Press Council.

"The Guild acknowledges the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office to withdraw the I & B Ministry's notification but remains deeply disturbed that faith continues to be reposed on the Press Council of India to deliver justice on such issues. The recent reconstitution of the Press Council of India has been done in a manner that gives rise to doubts over the independence of the institution and its ability to play neutral umpire. The Guild's nominees to the Council were disallowed on technical grounds," the Guild said in a statement.

The Editors' Guild also referred to the reconstitution of the Central Press Accreditation Committee and said it raised questions over the "non-transparent processes being followed by the I & B Ministry" as the Guild's application was ignored.

Three days ago, multiple central ministers promoted a fake news checking website called the True Picture, in what seemed cut and paste tweets. Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani also tweeted.
  
The Indian Express reported that True Picture had attacked its stories despite documentary evidence. The Express story found that a phone number linked to the True Picture website was linked to Blueakraft Digital Foundation, the same site that hosted the PM's book for students, Exam Warriors.

When NDTV did an independent check, the number linked to Bluekraft Digital Foundation had been changed to a mobile number. On Truecaller, a number identifying app, it showed up as a number that belonged to a certain Amit Malviya. When NDTV tried calling this number, it did not exist. 

We asked BJP's IT cell head Amit Malviya if it was his number. He said it wasn't, and that he had nothing to do with the website.

NDTV tried to ask the ministers, including Smriti Irani, why they promoted this website. But till the time of going online with the story, none of them had responded.

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