Lucknow: India is dealing with the problem of fake news and now it seems that the Uttar Pradesh police has rolled up its sleeves to fight this menace.
On Sunday, the Gonda police, on the orders of Uttar Pradesh DGP O P Singh, got an FIR registered under section 153 of the IPC against a person who wrote a Facebook post which could have caused communal disturbance in the district. The post was shared by two more persons and the police case was also lodged against them also under the same sections of the IPC.
According to the communication officer of the Director General of Police headquarters, an investigation was done on the shared Facebook post which went viral and it was found that the pictures were not from Gonda and the incident mentioned was totally fake.
Ashok Kumar Singh, the station house officer of Gonda police informed this reporter on telephone that the FIR was registered against one Anjali Shukla, Komal and Deepak Sharma for posting the fake information. The rape charges mentioned in the Facebook post were found to be untrue and the picture of the injured women was from the Kanpur train accident.
"No arrests have yet been made in this case and by evening some news is expected to come," Singh said.
On the other side, the Lalitpur district administration has issued an eight-point order which says that all the "media Whatsapp groups" being run by the journalists of the district should get themselves registered by district information office.
The letter also cites an order for news portals and YouTube channels that these should get registered as per the guidelines of the state and in case they do not follow the orders, the district administration will be taking action against them under the relevant sections of the IT Act. The order letter clearly mentions that this is being done to maintain communal harmony in the district and also mentions that no religious posts should be shared in the media groups.
Krishna Maurya, a local journalist who works as a stringer for various news portals from Lalitpur district, terms this order as "nothing less than a gag on the media."
"They (district administration) are trying to silence the voice of the media. Everyone knows that there are more news portals than newspapers and newspaper do not hire reporters in places like Lalitpur and are totally dependent on stringers. In conditions like this, it will become very difficult to work. We are already underpaid and this order is like snatching bread from our mouth," Krishna said, adding that it is good that the administration is trying to rein in fake news but while making guidelines they should have thought about people like us who struggle day and night to bring out fair news.
Senior journalist Raj Silvano, however, feels this step should be welcomed by everyone as it strives to make a better and safe society.
"I do not see this as a gag. This order will control the influx of fake information, hate messages and fake news on social media. Today WhatsApp has become the carrier of fake news and it has become very necessary to end this problem," he says.
Meanwhile, Awnish Awasthi, secretary Uttar Pradesh Information department has said that no such order has been issued from the Information department.
"No such orders have been issued from the state capital and the order is limited to Lalitpur district. We have asked the Lalitpur district administration about it and the state government is looking into it," he says.
Senior journalist Neeraj Srivastava, an office bearer of the Uttar Pradesh State Accredited Correspondent Committee, told this reporter that this attempt by the Lalitpur district administration was like "strangulating" the press.
"Identify those who spread fake news instead of drawing lines for newspersons. We condemn this and will protest against this. The journalist fraternity of Uttar Pradesh is not going to tolerate such gags on the media," he said.
It may be mentioned that the problem of fake news in India has grown to such a level that riots and lynchings are happening due to it. It has now become a challenge for the government to curb fake news.
The author is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters