New Delhi: It wasn’t an entirely celebratory mood at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on Tuesday evening, even though the (I&B ministry) had withdrawn punitive measures for checking fake news announced a day earlier.

The measures, contained in a press release, “Guidelines for accreditation of journalists amended to regulate fake news", caused widespread outrage among media organizations and were withdrawn after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention, according to PTI.

The press release said that any complaint on fake news would be referred to the Press Council of India for print media and the News Broadcasters Association for electronic media. If confirmed as fake, the accreditation of the journalist shall be suspended for a period of six months for a first offence, a year if it’s the second offence and permanently after the third. Close to 100 journalists met at the Press Club on Tuesday to express their concern.

“Through the circular, I believe the government was testing the waters. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have much to answer for fake news as do websites which are often patronised by the government and are given a free run even though they are caught peddling fake news on several occasions," said Rajdeep Sardesai, television news anchor and consulting editor at the India Today group. The government doesn’t come into this debate with clean hands, he added.

The consensus at the hour-long open meeting was that while fake news needs to be tackled with concrete strategies like naming and shaming and forming of apex bodies that comprise both legal experts and professional journalists, it is no way, the responsibility of the government.

Bodies like the Editors’ Guild of India and the Broadcast Editors Association condemned the order, with the former calling it draconian and arbitrary.

“We can’t let this (issue) go with mere withdrawal of the circular," said senior journalist Ravish Kumar. “Audiences will suffer this way."

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