Published On : Wed, Apr 4th, 2018

After fake news directive, Smriti Irani’s I&B ministry might track journalists with RFID press cards, says report

Smriti Irani

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New Delhi: Facing backlash over controversial directive on fake news, Union minister Smriti Irani is set to ruffle some more feathers as media reports said that the Press Information Bureau is now planning to track journalists’ movements inside government buildings and offices.

In a move ostensibly to improve security, the Press Information Bureau is considering to swap regular press accreditation cards it issues to journalists with radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards, The Print reported.

PIB, the media wing of the I&B ministry, has written to the Union home ministry in January asking if the move could be implemented. PIB currently issues these identification cards to journalists after a careful verification process but is said to have been looking at ways to enhance security after some documents leaked from the petroleum ministry.

Home ministry sources, however, told The Print that the move could be impractical to implement. RFID cards would use electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects which means that journalists who can enter government buildings and offices by merely showing there press accreditation cards will now have to punch in and out to gain access to the building.

Meanwhile, this was not the first controversial move by the I&B ministry. Irani courted controversy on Monday after she issued a notification to ‘blacklist’ journalist found generating or propagating fake news. The backlash on move prompted Irani to do a volte-face within 24 hours after the Prime Minister’s direct intervention, whose office advised Irani to roll back the notification.

In fact The Indian Express reported that a “fuming prime minister” was caught “unaware” by the move and only came to know about it after the minister went public with the notification.

“A fuming prime minister told his office to direct the I&B Ministry to withdraw the directive with immediate effect,” the newspaper quoted PMO sources as saying.

The I&B ministry on Monday had announced measures to contain fake news, saying the accreditation of a journalist could be permanently cancelled if the scribe is found generating or propagating fake news. The move drew media ire, especially as the minister’s record in tackling fake news has been hazy. Irani’s the former aide Shilpa Tiwari was accused of propogating fake videos showing JNU students shouting anti-India slogans, as a Hindustan Times report said.

Moreover, The Indian Express reported that at least 13 Union ministers, including Irani had tweeted out a link for allegedly combating fake news, which was found sharing a common landline number with another company BlueKraft Digital Foundation. BlueKraft is the “technology and knowledge” partner to Exam Warriors, the latest book authored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the newspaper report said.