India govt withdraws 'fake news' punishment order

India govt withdraws 'fake news' punishment order
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The Indian government has withdrawn orders to punish reporters over "fake news" following a major backlash by journalists and media organisations in the country.

The guidelines issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Monday (local time) called for the suspension of a reporter's accreditation on mere accusations of spreading fake news.

The controversial rules were seen to muzzle the press and leave journalists vulnerable to harassment as media bodies raised questions about who would define fake news.

"The guidelines issued last night stand withdrawn following directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office," a senior ministry official said.

The fake news problem will be dealt with by the Press Council of India, a body comprising journalists and media owners, Mr Modi ordered.

Under the cancelled accreditation guidelines, if the complaint was found true, the reporter would lose accreditation for six months for the first violation.

A second violation would get the reporter's accreditation suspended for a year, and a third violation would take it away permanently, it said.

The ministry said it amended accreditation guidelines because there were "increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic mediums".