Journalists from eight media bodies issued a statement on Saturday, expressing “grave concern” about the decisions the chairperson of the Press Council of India, Justice CK Prasad, had made to form the 13th Press Council. They said the “procedures” Prasad followed while reconstituting the council cast doubts over the council’s autonomy, The Indian Express reported.
The eight media bodies are the All India Newspaper Editors Conference, Indian Journalists Union, Indian Newspaper Society, Working News Cameramen Association, Hindi Samachar Patra Sammelan, National Union of Journalists (India), All India Small and Medium Newspapers Federation and Press Association.
Prasad “overlooked precedence and adopted a process to keep out certain media associations and candidates”, the journalists said, according to The Hindu.
They pointed out that Prasad had called a meeting of the reconstituted Press Council, but only of eight members – five MPs and three official nominees – and left out 20 other representatives of print media organisations. “The remaining 20 names have yet to be notified and reconstitution is still under way,” the statement said.
The eight groups have asked the government to intervene and “restore the credibility and sanctity of the Press Council of India”.
The journalists’ statement comes just days after Prasad, responding to a press release the government had issued on regulating fake news, said there was nothing obnoxious if any government plans to take remedial steps to check the “global menace” of fake news as long as an independent statutory body investigates the claims.
The Centre had said journalists accused of reporting or propagating fake news will lose their press accreditation till regulating agencies confirm the validity of the complaint. Faced with mounting criticism from political leaders as well as citizens overnight, the Centre withdrew the order less than 24 hours after it issued it.