RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh government is closely monitoring reports carried by the mainstream media and web portals to identify “fake news” and if possible initiate legal action, a move denounced by the opposition as an attempt to curtail press freedom and create an environment of fear among scribes.
A special monitoring cell of the state-level committee constituted by the Chhattisgarh government has taken cognisance of recent “extensively propagated fake news” and dubbed such reporting as “detrimental to the public interest”. The Chhattisgarh government on Friday lodged a complaint with the News Broadcasters Association against a national news channel for 'airing an alleged baseless report relating to the recent Income Tax (IT) raids in the state'.
The cell has prepared a list of news reports it called "fake" and warned the media to desist from publishing, propagating and sharing (disseminating) them. It cited a press report claiming that in Chhattisgarh there was a “State Register of Journalists” on the lines of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Besides, the release also cited “unsubstantiated claims on coronavirus affected people in the state, baseless coverage on recent IT raids, false news about the deputy secretary of CM Bhupesh Baghel having gone underground during the raids and the recovery of Rs 100 crore from her residence, former chief secretary's involvement in coal scam” which were extensively reported both in print and social media.
The cell decided to gather detailed information about the roles of editors and heads of media houses, Whatsapp admin and also those who release and promulgate such news item. An email has also been officially generated for lodging of grievance or objection by complainants against fake news.
The cell is headed by an inspector general rank police officer. The other members include a senior superintendent of police, a district government lawyer, two journalists and member secretary from the department of public relations.
The cell can also initiate, if necessary, the registration of criminal cases against these publications.
The BJP opposed the creation of the special monitoring cell calling it as dangerous to the independent working of the media. “It will curtail press freedom. Such cells should be abolished. If there is any wrong or false reporting, Indian laws are enough to take action against the wrongdoers. The media would feel frightened to communicate the truth and the administration might misuse it in the name of maintaining control over journalism,” said a senior BJP legislator Brijmohan Agrawal.