Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said that fake news is more dangerous than paid news. The minister said there was a need for the government and media organisations to tackle the problem together.

“It is not just the government’s job, it is everybody’s job,” he said at an interaction with PTI journalists in New Delhi. “Those who are in the business of genuine news, they all must strive hard [to combat it].” He said that a few news channels were tackling the problem through programmes that bust fake news and urged print media to also do the same through columns.

Javadekar highlighted that the circulation of fake news had caused the deaths “of more than 20-30 people in mob violence” in the last few months. The minister said the government was tackling the menace through shows such as “Kashmir ka Sach” (The Truth About Kashmir) on Doordarshan News. This was done to stop the spread of misinformation about the situation in the region after the Centre revoked its special status under the Constitution.

He said while people reacted to fake news on government matters fast, the government was also concerned about public order. State administrators have also been asked to tackle the matter, Javadekar added.

On paid news, he said the media should provide suggestions to the government to penalise the “small percentage of media that indulges” in the practice. Javadekar described paid news as an unethical practice that should be stopped.

The Union minister said the government would not take any steps to curb freedom of the press and recommended regulations for over-the-top or OTT platforms similar to print, electronic media and movies. Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix come under OTT platforms, which also includes news websites.

“I have sought suggestions on how to deal with this because there are regular feature films coming on OTT – good, bad and ugly,” he said. “So how to deal with this, who should monitor, who should regulate. There is no certification body for OTT platforms and likewise news portals also.” Javadekar added that the government had not decided on the matter.

The minister listed out the regulatory bodies and said that the Press Council of India was responsible for the print media, television news channels had News Broadcasters Association, while the Advertising Standards Council of India took care of advertising and the Central Board of Film Certification moderated content for movies. He said there was no such regulatory body for OTT platforms.

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