There was only one occasion in India when freedom of the press was curbed. It was during the National Emergency declared in June 1975. Then I was a student activist and we did a satyagraha against the censorship of the press, for which we were arrested on 11 December 1975 and kept in jail till the release of all political prisoners till 26 January 1977.
Censorship was the only rule then! A government official was stationed for each newspaper group, which checked all the news to be published the next day.
He could stop publishing any news material without any reason. My father, who was the sub-editor of 'Dainik Kesari' founded by Mr. Lokmanya Tilak, was on night duty on 25 June, when an emergency was imposed. On the morning of 26 June he told us how freedom of the press was abolished.
Every kind of freedom, whether it was freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of speech or freedom of the press, was banned. It was the darkest period for democracy in India. During that time many petitions were filed before the Supreme Court for the restoration of all freedoms, but all proved to be futile. The courts have even said that the rulers have every right to take away one's life.
This was the most infamous argument given by the then-Attorney General of India, Mr. Niren Dey, and was supported by the courts. Although millions fought against the Emergency for 18 months, it was a dark age in relation to freedom of press and media.
The Janata Party won the elections immediately after the Emergency was lifted in 1977 and the first decision of that government was to restore complete freedom of the press and media, which has continued uninterrupted ever since.
However, recently a new trend of advancing fake news is emerging and efforts are being made to deliberately mislead people, creating confusion and restlessness. During the lockdown, the spread of fake news has increased due to print and electronic media and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp. To prevent this danger, we set up a Fact Check Unit 'in PIB, which took immediate cognizance of fake news and immediately started denying it.
As a result, many TV channels and print media had to retreat from fake news items, keep correct details and apologize. When the government took this initiative to stop fake news, some people criticized it as an attempt to 'curb freedom of the press'.
My question is whether spreading fake news under the guise of press freedom is right. The answer is no, it cannot happen. Some examples are encountered. On Twitter, fake news was made by a famous lawyer that a woman in Uttar Pradesh dumped her five children in the Gomti River, as the family had no food.
But the investigation found that the woman had enough food at home and took the step after a fight with her husband. Another news spread that patients were kept separately in a hospital in Ahmedabad on the basis of religion. It was also found to be incorrect.
Another misinformation was spread through social media, which led to a clash between migrant workers and policemen at Bandra station. The Fake News Factory had spread the news that a special train for migrant workers would run, while there was no such official plan. One such popular channel gave fake news that the Covid-19 test positive of all the employees of a government hospital in Bikaner in Rajasthan. When the facts were revealed, the channel had to withdraw that news.
We have also found that fake news is run on social media to discredit the efforts of the Central and State Governments, such as two per cent of the poor getting food from ration shops, there is no supply of ration in PDS shops, Government employees 30 percent salary and pension will be cut, click on a link and the government will pay Rs 1,000, by the end of June the government will provide free internet Agi, hotels will be closed till October, etc. All this news was found wrong.
There is another terrible pattern of fake news, which causes panic. After India exported HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) to the US and other countries, fake news spread that India had no stock of HCQ for its people.
Other fake news posts also surfaced, such as testing equipment ordered by Tamil Nadu, shipped to the US, Isha Foundation found 150 foreign-positive, 30,000 people working at a garment factory in Tirupur were stranded, a BMC official claimed Is that community transmission has started in Mumbai, there was a shortage of medical supplies in Jammu and Kashmir, there was no ration in Churachandpur district of Manipur, Ramuk newspaper has estimated that there will be in Mumbai, taking the total number of people infected by the end of April, 40,000 and reach 6.5 million by mid-May.
All this news proved to be fake and had to be withdrawn. The malicious conspiracy was behind the propagation of some fake news. Like news came from Himachal Pradesh that the entry of Muslim Gujjars supplying milk was stopped. Everyone would agree that the spread of fake news cannot be allowed in the name of freedom of the press.