New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India strongly condemned the manner in which a group of ministers (GoM) prepared a report that recommended identifying and engaging journalists — who had lost jobs but have been “supportive or neutral” to the Modi government — to help project the government’s image positively.
The report, drafted last year, also pushes for the government to carry out regular interaction with foreign journalists so that “its perspective” is put out correctly in the international forum.
Read the full statement here:
The Editors Guild of India expresses shock and disbelief at the manner in which a group of ministers (GoM) has prepared a report with an embedded toolkit to control the narrative about the government in the media.
This GoM, comprising of five cabinet and four ministers of state, had been constituted by the government in mid-2020, without any provocation and at a time when various press freedom and democracy indices show a rapid slide. The report, which was prepared at the end of 2020 and has recently emerged in media, further illustrates the government’s increasingly draconian attitude against any critique and inquiry by the press. The suggestions from the GoM report hint at increased surveillance and targeting of writers and journalists who depart from the government’s narrative. One of the more disturbing instances is the suggestion by a Union Minister that refers to developing a “strategy to neutralise the people who are writing against the Government without facts and set false narratives/spread fake news”. In the absence of any clarity on what will constitute fake news and the process to be followed, such observations smack of an intention to simply muzzle any criticism of the government.
Since the report was made public, some of those who have been named in the report have denied any involvement in its drafting or stated that they were part of any such process.
The preparation of the GoM report and its debilitating import on media freedom and journalists is a major concern for EGI, which demands that the government, which is supposed to safeguard constitutional values of freedom of expression should make it clear that it is committed to the plurality of views in the media.