Understanding India’s Central Media Accreditation Guidelines 2022 · Global Voices

A newly added clause that lays down the conditions for the suspension of accreditation has sparked fears of press censorship by the state. The clause states that a journalist’s accreditation can be withdrawn in case “they act in a manner that is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.” Among the other clauses, the journalist’s accreditation can also be suspended if they have been charged with serious cognizable offences.

Those opposing the rules point out that such vaguely defined clauses could jeopardise how journalists work, leaving them working at the behest of the state. The Editor’s Guild of India has asked the Centre to revoke the rules, especially since key stakeholders were not consulted. Questioning the broad grounds for suspension including “being charged with serious cognizable offence” and “defamation,” they say, “It is clear that these vague, arbitrary, and draconian clauses have been included with an intent to restrict any critical and investigative reporting of government affairs.” They also express concern regarding the conditionality of obtaining police verification for accreditation as it may be misused to stifle free speech. As an extension to the concerns listed by the Guild, it is imperative to note that it is not uncommon for journalists to be slapped with a First information report FIRs for violation of some criminal law, including anti-terror laws. Defamation is another tool used to silence critics and journalists. In India, media organisations file defamation cases against each other as well. If these guidelines continue, under which defamation is a criteria for withdrawal of accreditation, it may just solidify the existing will to file defamation cases against the media.

The Press Club of India (PCI), along with other prominent journalist groups, has taken several steps to pressure the Government. On February 11, the PCI sent a letter to the government expressing dissatisfaction with the guidelines. Following up, the club also started a signature campaign. On February 25, the PCI, the Editors Guild of India, and the Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) passed a resolution unanimously against the rules and sent a copy of the letter to the ministry. This document stated: “The Government has failed to clarify the logic and emergency behind this move, which has unnecessarily created the crisis between the government and media.”

 

Source: Understanding India’s Central Media Accreditation Guidelines 2022 · Global Voices