On weeding out ‘fake journalists’

  • IASbaba
  • September 2, 2021
  • 0
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  • GS-1: Fundamental Freedoms & Restrictions
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

On weeding out ‘fake journalists’

Context: The Madras High Court has directed the State government to constitute a body named the Press Council of Tamil Nadu (PCTN) within three months to protect the interests of genuine journalists and weed out fake journalists

What was the case about?

  • The original case was initiated by a man claiming to be a journalist whereby  he alleged against the special team investigating theft of idols from various temples. 
  • This case was disposed of with a direction to the Idol Wing CID to proceed with the investigation in accordance with the law. 
  • As there was suspicion over the petitioner’s credentials, the Bench has proceeded to address the larger problem of fake journalists.

Do You Know?

  • As of now, the Press Council of India performs the watchdog role about public complaints, but without any substantive enforcement powers. 
  • Accreditation and dealing with journalist bodies are now the functions of the respective governments. 
  • ‘Newspapers, books and printing presses’ are in the Concurrent List.

What will be the composition of PCTN?

  • It will be headed by a retired judge of either the Supreme Court or the High Court. 
  • Experienced and reputed journalists, both working and retired, retired civil servants and Indian Police Service (IPS) officers must be its members.

What are the Powers & Functions of PCTN?

  • The council shall have sole authority to recognise press clubs and journalists’ associations or unions in the State of Tamil Nadu
  • It shall not allow or recognise the formation or continuation of unions or associations based on caste, community or State boundaries. 
  • The council shall conduct and approve elections to these clubs, unions and associations. If elections are not held under the directive of Council, then such organisation will be brought under PCTN control.
  • It would also have the authority to decide on the number of journalists’ associations that could be permitted in each city or town.
  • Journalists’ associations should disclose their sources of income and obtain the council’s permission before conducting State conferences and meetings
  • The PCTN shall have the power to identify fake journalists and lodge complaints against them to the jurisdictional police. 
  • Members of the public can send their complaints regarding fake journalists to the welfare board, which will inquire and initiate criminal action against such fake journalists, because they are a menace and a threat to the civil society,
  • It shall also regulate the distribution of identity and accreditation cards, which enables them to obtain certain benefits (ex: Bus  & rail passes, welfare measures etc)

Why such a body was required? 

  • Fake journalists generally indulge in illegal and unethical practices such as blackmailing industrialists, businessmen, government officials and politicians for their unjust enrichment.
  • Also, they run letter-pad publications, or even print some copies of unknown journals, and work for vested interests, but seek benefits of journalists.
  • Having a body like PCTN will help weed out such fake journalists and thus enahance the integrity of the Journalism.

What are the associated concerns?

  • Such a body is being created by judicial direction while disposing of public interest litigation somewhat unrelated to the case at hand. 
  • Creating such body is normally done by law and after wider consultations, thus it can be considered as Judicial Overreach.

Connecting the dots:

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