NEW DELHI: “Smriti Irani could not have dared issue the fake news order without the Prime Ministers approval. There is no question that in a government where not even a pin drops without the PM’s approval, the Minister could have taken this kind of advantage of the system,” said former Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

Speaking to The Citizen Sinha was categorical that there was no way that the order threatening to strip journalists of their government accreditation as punishment for fake news, could have been passed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting without the PM Narendra Modi’s knowledge. A senior Minister earlier with long experience of both government and the BJP, Sinha said that the PM took advantage of the order when it became clear that the order had not worked, and moved in to “ditch” Irani who was merely following orders.

In fact, after the announcement, some television news channels lauded the PM as a “hero.”

Sinha, follows journalist and former Minister Arun Shourie, in underlining the fact that such a major move could not have been taken by Irani without the PM’s full sanction. “There is no doubt in my mind that the whole thing was thought out by the Prime Minister and it was all done at his initiative,” Sinha said. But then as the reaction was more than expected, he decided to leave Smriti Irani in the lurch and distanced himself from his own measure, Sinha added.

He was certain that these efforts to subjugate the media even further would continue. “They will keep looking for insidious ways,” Sinha said adding however, that in his view the entire media was already controlled. He said except for the digital media, all but a couple of television news channels and the print media was already doing as it was told. The rest have all given up, he added, as they are scared “as they can use the worst means to get to people they don’t like.”

Shourie, former editor of the Indian Express, in an interview to NDTV said that he did not believe that the order was passed without the knowledge of PM Modi. "How can it be? When not a leaf moves but by his will. ... You think that such a far reaching order could have been drafted without the PMO," he said.

Shourie was also categorical that in his view this order had little to do with the fake news issue. "The first thing to realise is that such measures of the government have absolutely nothing to do with the stated objective because they are the biggest perpetrators of the fake news," he said.

He said that the lesson from this episode was to ensure that each and everytime the government tried to do something like each “there should be a tsunami of backlash that they withdraw".

Please be sure this has nothing to do with fake news. It is another instrument the government is acquiring to suppress the press,"he said. He further added that the best way to counter such efforts was to “always stick to the truth.”

The Editors Guild and other journalist organisations have strongly condemned the move, and warned the government against further such measures.