A 97-page report titled ‘The Group of Ministers on Government Communication’ documents an extensive list of responsibilities to be undertaken by various ministries, based on suggestions by several journalists.
The purported report by a Group of Ministers (GoM) on how to improve “government communication” has suggested a strategy to “neutralize” those who set “false narratives” against the government.
Most of the nine ministers, who were part of the GoM, flagged “negative” coverage of the government on online and international news platforms and called for supporting journalists “pro our line of thought”, the report said.
Few of the ministers that partook in or gave inputs to the report denied having any knowledge about it, some denying completely while others have been unavailable for comments.
According to the news carried by The Indian Express, the Ministers included: Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar; Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad; External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar; Textiles Minister Smriti Irani; Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi; Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju; MoS (Independent Charge), Civil Aviation, and Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri; MoS Finance Anurag Thakur; and MoS Environment, Forest and Climate Change Babul Supriyo.
According to the report, the meetings took place in June 2020 when the government was planning to move towards unlock 1.0, aiming to garner the support of journalists who were “pro our line of thought” of the government to set the narrative in favour of the government.
The consensus within the GoM was that the news coming out of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) has been unable to do just that while also flagging national and international news content for “negative content”.
The group has also reportedly been concerned about the negative portrayal of governmental shortcomings by independent media outlets.
To safeguard favourable coverage, meetings with “prominent personalities” from the media fraternity took place to seek advice on how to curb the media criticism of the government.
The meetings between the GoM and the journalists have been denied by the journalists who attended them.
Jayant Ghoshal, former political editor of India TV, currently with the India Today group told the Caravan Magazine, who ran a detailed story on the contents of the report. “We went there to meet Jaishankar,” Ghoshal told the magazine.
“We were never informed of any interaction with a GoM on government communication and no such formal interaction took place. No notes were taken by anyone on behalf of the ministers present there. I do not know how they came up with these observations.” he said, as quoted by the Caravan.
The observations marked by the report remain about the journalists who were critical of the Narendra Modi-led government and how it handled the pandemic.
“The deliberations of the GoM focussed on evolving multi-pronged strategy to take these 10 big narratives to the people by various means including direct connect by elected representatives and state & district level representatives, engaging with media houses and academia at the national and international level, utilizing all types of media, feeding them with positive stories and testimonials, developing institutional mechanisms for structured engagements, developing DD International on lines of best international public broadcasters and strengthening a resource pool of domain experts,” the report said.
The report also states that the GoM has given their first presentation to the Prime Minister regarding the communication image who then “guided the GoM with his insights and have his vital inputs.”