Journalist Forum Welcomes Madras High Court’s Directive on Fake News Peddlers

NEW DELHI: Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) commends the concern expressed by Madras High Court in a recent directive to Tamil Nadu government to constitute a press council so that the menace of fake news/journalists can be legally addressed. The forum also opines that a recognized journalist should be barred from doing non-journalistic jobs like that of a contractor to the government department and so on.

Mentionable is that, the apex court of Tamil Nadu lately ordered the State government in Chennai to form ‘Press Council of Tamil Nadu’ within three months to eliminate the bogus journalists from the media fraternity. It added that the quasi-judicial council should be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court, with members from the media fraternity, civil service & police department (retired), etc.

The court observed that it becomes a common sight these days to find posh cars with PRESS stickers on the front windshield being driven by unscrupulous fraudsters masquerading as working journalists. There have been quite a number of instances of such fraudsters being booked by the police. Politicians, land sharks, smugglers and even murderers have been seen to be hand in glove with these journalists.

The State directorate of information and public relations is aware of this, but the officials turn a blind eye, to avoid any wrath in the hands of those fake journalists. This needs to be stopped to ensure that journalism remains clean and strong. In view of the above position, necessary directions have to be issued to clean up the media in the interest of public, added the court observation.

The court asked the government to avoid allotting any house or grant directly to any applicant journalists unless it is routed through the council to be constituted, which after due diligence can issue such benefits. It shall prohibit conduct of State conferences or meetings by journalist’s associations without permission or approval from the council, which shall get details on the source of income and other relevant details before giving permission to them.

It also directed the government to make necessary amendments to the accreditation rules and asked not to issue press stickers, identity cards and other benefits, unless the organisation or media house discloses the number of employees, salary slips, TDS details, tax paid to the government and proof that it sells certain number of copies of newspapers or has certain viewership.

The common people aggrieved by the fake news or motivated and agenda-based news can send their complaints on fake journalists to the welfare board, which shall inquire and initiate criminal action against such scribes as they are simply a menace and threat to the society. The council shall have powers to order the carrier of offending news items for a rejoinder or an apology.

“We also witness numerous incidents of media malpractices in Assam, where some of them have been dragged to the court. Even public protests have also erupted against some touting journalists,” said JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria, adding that those pretending scribes only harm the genuine media persons in the long run and hence Assam government should think of launching a media council at the earliest.