The next morning, around the same time that Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani offered to hold discussions with journalists about the guidelines, the Prime Minister's Office sent word to cancel the statement put out by the government's spokesperson, Press Information Bureau.
According to this statement, the guidelines provided for automatic suspension of a journalist's accreditation every time someone complained that a news report was a "fake".
There were stiffer penalties if Press Council of India and the National Broadcasters Association, which plays the role of a media regulator for print and electronic media respectively, were to conclude that a journalist had put out "fake news".
The ministry insists that the guidelines had been, contrary to some statements, discussed with NBA and the PCI representatives over the past month. "There are minutes of meetings on this," the source said, adding that a senior official K Sanjay Murthy had been met the representatives too.
Former union minister Arun Shourie believes that the statement and the short-lived guidelines was a trial balloon. The lesson from this aborted attempt, he said, was that every time the government tries to do something similar, "each time there should be a tsunami of backlash that they withdraw".
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