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Boost to Modi? Assam journos' forum wants regulatory body to curb alternative media publishing "unverified" stories

Jagdamba Mall
By Our Representative
In a surprise move, a top mediapersons’ association of the North-East, Journalists’ Forum of Assam (JFA), has demanded a regulatory authority over what has come to be known as alternate media, urging the Government of India to go so far as to “empower” the Press Council of India with “the inclusion of electronic and social media” for this.
The move comes at a time when there is an increasing concern across India over reducing democratic space, with mediapersons critical of the government authorities being “targeted” for coming up with stories which may not sound music to the powers that be. Things have gone so bad the 2017 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders ranked India at 136 out of 180 countries, worse than the previous year.
Making the case for a regulatory authority, JFA refers to a news story published in a prominent news portal, The Wire, which led to a major repercussion across Assam. Taking strong exception to the local media republishing the story, in a statement, JFA president Rupam Barua said, “While the concerned portal should have reported the matter with right perspective, the vernacular news outlets must have authenticated the facts before publishing the news item.”
He regretted, the local dailies “might have recognized” the news portal as trustworthy, hence found it “logical to use the content of the portal over a sensitive issue without verification”. However, Barua asserted, “Once we have a powerful media council. This kind of flaws could be addressed more efficiently.”
The news item which created storm was regarding the two-year-old “peace deal” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the armed group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah or IM), claimed to be “the beginning of a new future”, The deal, said the story, sourced on an RSS-supported “draft agreement” for bringing several areas of the North East under Naga control, creating it termed as “Greater Nagalim”.
Prepared by RSS veteran Jagdamba Mall, the story said, the RSS’ document wanted Greater Naligam to take shape over the next ten years by creating “separate” development authorities in seven Naga inhabited districts of Manipur, two Naga inhabited districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Changlang and Tirap and one in Assam, the Dima Hasao (North Cachar Hills district).
As copies of the ‘draft plan’ were sent to some media houses in the North-East for publication, which included a proposal that Assam’s Dima Hasao district be part of ‘Greater Nagalim’, news stories in local media led to angry protests in Assam. In the last week of January, two people were killed in Dima Hasao district, when police opened fire at demonstrators protesting a draft Naga agreement “proposed” by an RSS member.
While Mall has denies the existence of RSS draft plan, saying “I am nobody to speak or write on behalf of RSS or BJP”, he admits, his was “simply a sharing of an idea." According to observers, what created furor was, he is considered face of the RSS in the North-East, who has also been instrumental in BJP’s electoral inroads into the region.
Local sources say, the problem has aggravated because, though the proposed Nagalim claims many areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and also northern Myanmar localities, there is still “uncertainty” over the government actions as contents of Naga agreement, announced by Modi have still not been made public.
Meanwhile, an eerie quiet prevails in Dima Hasao, an autonomous district constituted under the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution, home to Dimasa tribe people with a sizable Naga population. It has witnessed several ethnic insurgencies since 1980s. Demands from government clarify its stance on Nagalim has continues to be made by several North-East organizations.

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JFA reiterates demand for regulatory authority over alternate media
http://www.thehillstimes.in/jfa-reiterates-demand-for-regulatory-authority-over-alternate-media/

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