New Delhi: Busting fake news, examining media narratives for effectively predicting trends, showcasing India’s proactiveness in tackling Covid-19 globally and ensuring positive press coverage — these will be among the tasks that a newly appointed empowered group on information, communication and public awareness will oversee.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had issued an order Sunday, constituting 11 empowered groups to plan and implement decisions taken to control the spread of the novel coronavirus and to address the challenges emerging out of the lockdown.
Each of the groups is headed by top civil servants, and will include a senior representative from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Cabinet Secretariat.
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Information group’s job description
Top government sources said the empowered group on information, communication and public awareness, headed by I&B secretary Ravi Mittal, will have the following responsibilities:
– Look into creation of mass awareness through multimedia campaigns about both Covid-19 and the government’s efforts to contain it.
– Bust fake news through fact-checking based on inputs, and publicise it aggressively.
– Ensure positive press and predict trends through analysis of media narratives and informal media briefings.
– Track global media and project India’s proactiveness and performance in tackling the crisis using numbers.
A senior government official privy to the developments told ThePrint that the group will also oversee proper information dissemination through regular press conferences, statements and advisories, and positive articles in the media, including some from health experts.
A second official said the group will focus on social media with a dedicated Twitter handle, through which it will periodically put out important information related to the pandemic. This will include data and analysis, number of cases, messages from celebrities, important inputs from press releases and advisories.
The committee will also oversee all-round awareness campaigns on Covid-19, including ensuring various hashtag campaigns and relevant SMS communications.
There will also be focussed Covid-19 awareness campaigns on radio, television and social media.
Regional media and local celebrities will also be roped in to generate awareness in rural areas and urban slums.
The group will also monitor suggestions from the MyGov portal and other empowered groups, and ensure action is taken on them.
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Action already taken
ThePrint has learnt that the I&B ministry has already set up some inter-ministerial sub-groups to implement the tasks.
Each sub-group will have a different task, ranging from verification of coronavirus-related fake news to publicising the government’s decisions.
The Press Information Bureau — the official communication arm of the government — has set up a portal called the Covid-19 fact-check unit, alongside its existing fact-checking unit. The portal will receive inputs on emails for fact-checks related to Covid-19.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla Wednesday wrote to all states and union territories, asking them to set up similar mechanisms at the state level.
Based on the Supreme Court’s order, the PIB has also started releasing daily bulletins on the government’s decisions and other daily developments and progress at 8pm from Wednesday.
The I&B ministry has already set up a dedicated Twitter handle @COVIDNewsByMIB this week, which has been posting frequent updates.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has set up a technical group consisting of professionals to clarify any doubts on technical aspects of Covid-19. The health ministry has also issued detailed guidelines to deal with psychological issues amongst migrant workers.
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