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Group of Ministers report points to draconian attitude of government, says Editors Guild

Media strategy hints at increased surveillance and targeting of writers and journalists, it says

March 09, 2021 07:28 pm | Updated 07:32 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar (R) and Ravi Shankar Prasad were part of the Group of Ministers. File

Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar (R) and Ravi Shankar Prasad were part of the Group of Ministers. File

The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday said the recent revelations about a Group of Ministers (GoM) report on the government’s media strategy was an example of its “increasingly draconian attitude” towards any criticism.

The guild said in a statement it was shocked at the manner in which the GoM prepared its report “with an embedded toolkit to control the narrative about the government in the media”. It said the GoM, whose members include five Cabinet Ministers and four Ministers of State, was set up in mid-2020, without provocation and at a time when press freedom and democracy indices were on a decline.

“The report, which was prepared at the end of 2020 and has recently emerged in media, further illustrates the government’s increasingly draconian attitude against any critique and inquiry by the press. The suggestions from the GoM report hint at increased surveillance and targeting of writers and journalists who depart from the government’s narrative,” the guild said.

Among the more disturbing suggestions was one by a Minister to develop a “strategy to neutralise the people who are writing against the government without facts and set false narratives/spread fake news,” it said, citing the report.

The EGI said such a suggestion revealed an intention to “muzzle any criticism of the government”, in the absence of clarity on what constitutes fake news.

“Since the report was made public, some of those who have been named in the report have denied any involvement in its drafting or stated that they were part of any such process. The preparation of the GoM report and its debilitating import on media freedom and journalists is a major concern for EGI, which demands that the government, which is supposed to safeguard constitutional values of freedom of expression, should make it clear that it is committed to the plurality of views in the media,” the statement said.

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