Guwahati (Assam), Aug 20 : Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA), while expressing serious concern over various negative developments over digital media entities functioning across the country, has called upon the Centre to empower the existing Press Council as Media Council of India (MCI).
“Such a measure would bring news channels and digital media entities under the purview of an upgraded and empowered watchdog body. Presently, only newspapers and periodicals are under the purview of the Press Council of India, which is but a quasi-judicial body in need of more powers to curb ethical violations,” said a JFA statement.
It warned that unless there is a comprehensive set of guidelines covering electronic media and digital media along with print media, transgressions might continue which would only put media persons at risk of official strong-arm action, commented JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria.
In this context, the forum referred to a recent controversy in Assam following the arrest of a mass-communication student of Gauhati University, the allegation against him being fraudulently attempting to cheat people through social media outlets. Dipjyoti Gogoi, who hails from Sivsagar district, allegedly posted a sarcastic comment in his facebook page recently using a screen shot of a news item on Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s public appeal for flood relief donations — this news item being carried by the news portal ‘www.nenow.in’ last year.
According to the police, Dipjyoti tried to mislead people with old news and cheat them, besides seeking to malign the government’s image. Apprehended under cyber crime law as well as penal code laws dealing with cheating and fraud, Dipjyoti is still under judicial custody.
NortheastNow editor Anirban Roy has already clarified that the particular news item (uploaded on 15 July, 2019) was based on a press release issued by the State DIPR. He thereafter apprised the matter to State chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna requesting to direct DIPR for issuing a clarification.
In other worrisome developments, a number of individuals involved with news portals/ digital channels have been arrested by the State police on different occasions on suspicion of their roles in unethical journalism and petty crimes. These arrested individuals were allegedly pretending to be scribes.
“There are possibilities that anti-national elements may use the digital media space which would emerge as a hidden menace to the nation’s security,” argued the forum adding that around 200 digital news outlets are functioning in Assam alone and the number would be in tens of thousands for the whole country.
Media persons working for these entities need clear guidelines about appropriate media practices as well as legal penalties that may be attracted due to violations, stated the forum concluding that the Union Government in New Delhi should recognize these new and alternative entities, as well as to bring about a Media Council to formulate guidelines for them at the earliest.