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Weeding out the Fake News

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on September 10, 2021 with No Comments

The Supreme Court of India had to pull up a section of the Indian media for creation and transmission of fake and communally influenced news. The court has taken a cognizance of the very fact that such news are wide spread and if it foes unchecked, it would damage the image of India. The troublemakers are not confined to social spaces like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, that are beyond the control of the governments; rather they have extended their tentacles to some TV channels that give a communal touch to news and present a narrative that is distorted.  However, the basic question remains, Why did the Supreme Court had to make such a stringent observation?

There have been cases, where the minorities have been presented as law breakers though the cases have fallen flat in the court of the law. There have been cases when minorities have been targeted, lynched and debates have centered around religion than talking of culprits. However, the media exceeded its acceptable limits  with the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020 in India, there was no dearth of misinformation on online platforms and soon the TV channels that owe their alliance to the ruling BJP and its associates too joined the bandwagon. The entire Muslim community found itself maligned after the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March 2020 turned out to be a coronavirus superspreader.  However, to present the same as a deliberate act of the community was uncalled for. Instead of treating those at the congregation as culprits no heed was paid to treat them as patients. The matter was let to linger on for longer than desired and now the latest observations by the apex court have come during the hearing of a petition seeking directions to the Centre to stop the dissemination of fake news related to the religious gathering at Markaz Nizamuddin.

India does have a statutory mechanism under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, not enough is being done to regulate the channels which spew venom day in, day out.  The central government that has to take action has reasons to ignore such channels.  It suits it’s agenda. The spokespersons of the ruling BJP are masters of the trade and in any debate they can bring in comments that spread hatred and serves their communal agenda.  Cases of lynchings against minorities now, don’t make a headline. Mobs who attack Muslim youth no longer use the cow as their excuse.  Now the very fact of being Muslim or Dalit is apparently enough to justify brutality.  Centre’s callous  attitude towards stopping the anti minority brutality leads to generation to communal sensitive news and vice versa and thus affecting the social fiber of India.

The Centre has put its case through stating that it cannot issue a gag order in cases of fake news on social media sites, citing that the move would  ‘effectively destroy the freedom of the citizenry to know and the right of journalists to ensure an informed society’.

However, in order to ensure that the India’s social fiber doesn’t get affected beyond repair, the government may choose a middle path. The middle path that encompasses effective monitoring and regulation through regular advisories and warnings –if so called for. The government will have to adopt a hard stance against the spreaders of fake news. Supreme Court judge DY Chandrachud said recently that in a country as diverse as India, there was a need to not only acknowledge the plurality of opinions, but also to celebrate it. News circulated or broadcast with a divisive agenda curtails democratic space and poses a threat to law and order. Such content has to be identified and weeded out forcefully.

 

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