Sources say Modi govt is wary of the ‘inclination’ of journalists; besides, I&B ministry has more important work in lead-up to 2019 elections.
New Delhi: Journalists working in digital media will not be given government accreditation anytime soon. A detailed proposal mooted by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) has been put in cold storage by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Ministry insiders indicated that with the general elections approaching, the government is apprehensive of accrediting any more mediapersons. “This is also because the government is not sure about the inclination of journalists working in the rapidly expanding digital medium,” a top ministry source said.
“The government thinks there is neither an authority in place at present to monitor digital media content nor a framework available for news portals to adhere to. So accreditation is not feasible,” the source said.
The source also said the government may be waiting for the report of a PMO-constituted committee that is supposed to recommend legal frameworks for a variety of cyberspace issues, including digital broadcasting and online news content.
Another senior government functionary admitted that the proposal for accrediting online journalists is not a priority now, and that the ministry has several other important issues on its plate.
The PIB proposal for accrediting online journalists states that news websites employing them should have a registered office in India, and the correspondents should be based in Delhi. The website must be at least a year old, should have operated without a break, and 60 per cent of its content should be original articles.
The proposal emphasises that these guidelines would not apply to online content aggregators, where news content from various outlets are uploaded.
“Applicants must report their website’s average monthly unique visitor (UV) count of the last six months, duly certified by the website’s auditors,” the proposal states, adding that websites should share their Google Analytics score to the government for verification.
UV refers to a person visiting a website only once within a certain time frame.
The proposal adds that English news websites with 20 lakh to 50 lakh UVs per month for six months will be offered one accreditation, those with more than 50 lakh UVs per month will be offered two accreditations, while websites in Hindi or other languages with more than 50 lakh UVs per month will be offered three accreditations.
In case the information submitted by the applicant is found to be false or incorrect, the applicant can be suspended or debarred from applying for accreditation for the next three years.
Importance of the accreditation
A PIB accreditation facilitates the smooth and hassle-free access of news media representatives into government buildings, press conferences and other important government events, as they are security-cleared.
Accredited journalists are also eligible for Central Government Health Scheme facilities, railways concessions, government accommodation and are covered under the journalists’ welfare scheme.
At present, a committee of journalists constituted by the I&B ministry looks at the applications received for accreditation from print and electronic media. PIB processes the application as per the Central Newsmedia Accreditation Guidelines.
The principal DG of PIB is the ex-officio chairperson of the committee. Till September 2017, there are 2,731 accredited journalists across the Indian and foreign media.
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