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Modi govt irked by ‘misuse of RTI to extract news, discredit’ it. Has a plan to counter it


The Central Information Commission building
Central Information Commission building | Commons


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New Delhi: Concerned over its growing negative image in the media, especially globally, the Narendra Modi government has chalked out a strategy to “handle the press”, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources said senior officials will now be informally tasked with responding to Right to Information (RTI) applications “in totality”, and explaining all circumstances in detail, to eliminate the scope of “interpretation”.

The government has cited the case of a BBC correspondent who filed 240 RTI applications about the lockdown — to show how the government did not consult departments and key experts before enforcing the lockdown — and suggested that all applications will now go through senior officials, sources said.

They added that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is also irked about the “misuse of RTI to extract news”, and the case of the BBC correspondent has been used to tell all ministries how RTI applications are being filed “with the aim of discrediting the government”.

ThePrint approached the I&B ministry spokesperson for a comment through text messages, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.


Also read: RTI, triple talaq, UAPA — petitions linked to 3 key matters heard only once in SC since 2019


What GoM report suggested

In October last year, a nine-member Group of Ministers (GoM) had submitted a report to the government about “media handling” and how to ensure favourable press. As a follow up, the I&B ministry has given instructions to all its field offices to take proactive action.

“Officials were asked to send rejoinders in case of wrong reporting, in a proactive manner. At the same time, all the ministries and departments have been asked to be careful while answering RTI applications, as some people are mischievously filing RTI applications to discredit the government,” a senior government official told ThePrint.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Global opinion about the Indian government has been hit, and especially because of false or mischievous reporting. It is important to look into these aspects and officials were told to be more proactive and explain the stance of the government in a better manner.”

The GoM report also recommended that the government should identify and engage with journalists who have lost their jobs but have been “supportive or neutral” to the Modi government in various ministries, so that “their services can be used to project the government’s image positively”, sources said.

The GoM had also suggested that there should be regular interaction with foreign journalists as part of the government’s global outreach, so that “its perspective” is put out correctly in the international forum.

Sources said the report had also suggested tracking 50 “negative influencers” who “give out false narratives and discredit the government”, and engaging with 50 “positive influencers” who project the government’s work in the “right perspective”.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)


Also read: SC judgment on RTI Act sets a dangerously low bar for what passes muster as law of land


 

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