Controversial Advisory issued By The Press Council of India

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Controversial Advisory issued By The Press Council of India

Controversial Advisory issued By The Press Council of India.


The Press Council of India has advised Indian newspapers and Indian media outlets to strictly regulate and verify any foreign news item or any foreign content that they might be publishing to their media platforms. Reportedly, the press council of India has issued this advisory based on advice given by the government, which is a reference to inputs that have been received from certain government agencies. The Press Council of India has felt that such free circulation of foreign news and foreign content on Indian media platforms, is not desirable, and it is called upon the media outlets to strictly regulate and verify the unregulated circulation of foreign news and foreign content. The advisory of the press council of India also states that the responsibility for verifying the false of the reporter the publisher and the editor, and possibly, they could accountable in case of breaches. The press council of India was established in 1966 as a statutory body by passing a dedicated law, and it was supposed to function as an independent institution with a two-fold objective. Its primary objective is to promote journalistic ethics in Indian newspapers and Indian media outlets, and the second objective was to defend the freedom of the press and the freedom of independent expression from any possible assault on this fundamental right from the government. After being established as a statutory independent institution the Press Council of India was functioning in a very independent autonomous manner.

During the dark days of the emergency. When the government has imposed an emergency and the government is seeking to regulate media content. It repeals the PCI act and abolishes the institution as the government felt that the Press Council of India was defending media rights, and it was defending the freedom of the press. So this was no doubt a dark chapter in the Indian democracy because it marked a direct assault on the freedom of expression, and as well as the freedom of the press. Following the emergency the Janta Dal government re-established the Press Council of India in 1978 by introducing another law and this independent institution is usually chaired by a retired Supreme Court Judge and it also consists of additional members who represent various media outlets. They also draw from Lock Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and several other eminent personalities are also included in the press Council of India. So the mandate of this watchdog is to maintain equal distance from the government and the press and all the stakeholders are to function independently journalistic ethics amongst newspapers and media outlets and ensure that accurate verified facts are published. At the same time, the watchdog also has the responsibility to protect the media and its freedom of press from any possible assault by the government. So in this regard. The Independent institution is supposed to maintain equal distance from the government, and as well as from the media. Before issuing such an advisory the PCI should have considered for reasons behind the publication of foreign news content in Indian newspapers and Indian media outlets. For any media outlet to have a global presence and to avoid global correspondence, it would take tremendous resources, a tremendous amount of capital, and especially Indian newspapers and Indian media outlets, are affected by a resource crunch. They cannot afford to have a global presence of their own, they enter into syndicated arrangements with reputed news agencies and media outlets of the world. For example, Indian newspapers and even publications have tied up with global news agencies, such as Associated Press AFP, etc, all of which are reputed international news agencies. Similarly, they also have syndicated arrangements with reputed media organizations in the world, such as the New York Times, The Guardian, BBC, and Washington Post, etc. So wherever the Indian media outlets can't have a global correspondent, they rely upon the content and the news articles, provided through such syndicated arrangements. But usually, the government and the government agencies do not see this arrangement in a positive light, because most of the reports that come from the foreign press and the foreign news agencies, seems to be critical of the Indian government. But this cannot be a reason to issue such an advisory, which has been designed to target the freedom of the press and limit the publication of foreign news content on Indian media platforms. When such a syndicated arrangement has worked out. The newspapers the media outlets believe that the basic fact-checking is already done by the reputed media agencies and newspapers have the resources to cross-check, then they could have been in a position to imply global correspondence, without the need for such syndicated arrangements. So it is basic economics, which provides the ground for such syndicated arrangements. And this is a practice see not just in India, but around the world as well. However, the PCl advisory against the publication of such foreign content, and its mandate of regulating the circulation of such content by placing the responsibility of the reporter publisher the editor is nothing short of an assault on the freedom of the press and the media, because the PCI is not bound in any way to act upon the advisories of the government. So this marks a dilution of the independence of the Press Council of India, and it is in stark contrast to the emergency days, during which the PCI act strongly defended the freedom of the press against any assault from the government, which eventually led towards abolishing.

The objective of  PCI will function independently as a neutral watchdog, but by issuing such a controversial advisory based on inputs of the government. The PCI has led to the dilution of its independence, and it also amounts to a direct assault on the freedom of the press.

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