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Only print and television journalists are at present eligible to get government accreditation from the Press Information Bureau.

New Delhi: The government late Monday issued a press note stating that journalists accused of publishing or even propagating “fake news” would have their government press accreditation suspended, and cancelled for subsequent violations.

Only print and television journalists are at present eligible to get government accreditation from the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

According to the amended guidelines for the accreditation of journalists, any complaints received about fake news in print media would be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI), and those pertaining to electronic media to the News Broadcasters’ Association (NBA). These bodies will then determine, within 15 days, if the item is indeed fake.

In case the news item is confirmed to be fake, the accreditation of the journalist concerned will be suspended for six months for the first violation, and for a year in case it’s the second. For the third violation, the journalist will lose his or her accreditation permanently.

The decision has met with stiff resistance from journalists, who will meet at 4 pm Tuesday at the Press Club of India to discuss the issue.

The information and broadcasting (I&B) minister, in a series of tweets, replied that non-accredited journalists too will eventually face a crackdown for propagating fake news. Without defining what exactly comprised fake news, she also said a committee had been set up to draft regulations for digital broadcasting and news portals.

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PIB accreditation

Currently, government accreditation is limited to the residents of Delhi, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Bahadurgarh, Ghaziabad and Gurgaon.

Correspondents or camerapersons need five years’ experience as a full-time working journalist to get the accreditation. Freelance journalists require 15 years’ experience.

The details of eligible journalists are then provided to the union home ministry, after which they are verified by police before an accreditation card is issued. The Central Press Accreditation Committee, which should meet at least twice a year, considers the names of correspondents and camerapersons who have applied for a PIB accreditation or its renewal.

The committee, comprising eight members, is headed by the PIB principal director general as the ex-officio chairperson, and includes representatives from the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association.

The other members currently include Prashant Mishra of Dainik Jagran, Navika Kumar of Times Now; Kanchan Gupta, commissioning editor with ABP News; J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer; and Smita Prakash of Asian News International. The committee was recently reconstituted.

On average, an estimated 3,000 press accreditation cards are issued annually by the government.

Having a PIB accreditation card essentially provides journalists access to government buildings within Delhi-NCR. Journalists in the other parts of the country have to seek state government-issued press accreditation cards.

Other benefits a government-accredited journalist gets are railway fare concessions and a Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) card, which guarantees free treatment at certain hospitals.

A certain number of government bungalows are also reserved for select accredited journalists. However, the government is considering limiting or withdrawing this benefit.

No accreditation for online media

The I&B ministry, however, doesn’t issue accreditation cards to journalists working in digital media. This is despite the PIB website listing a separate sheet of documents required of an online media organisation for its correspondents to get a government accreditation.

The list includes the balance sheet of the portal for the last financial year, the domain name registration certificate, list of subscribers, and proof of site updation at least six times a day.

The Print has learnt that a formal proposal to this effect, drafted with detailed guidelines, is pending with the I&B ministry.

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