Forced to express regret after releasing a “photoshopped” photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertaking an aerial survey of flooded areas in Tamil Nadu last month, the government is now in the process of finalising Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to prevent such an embarrassment from recurring.
This includes directions that photos of the PM, ministers and VVIPs will not be “merged” or “joined up”.
After the faux pas, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) had sought to defend itself by saying that the photograph in question had used the “technique of merging two pictures”.
The draft SOP, circulated by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry to various stakeholders seeking their feedback, states that “no join up and merging of two images will be done on Prime Minister/VVIP/Minister coverage”.
Senior I&B officials also indicated that an immediate review of the faux pas had found that such “merging” of photographs by the PIB “has been the practice for over a decade” and photographs of several former PMs have been released after “merging” more than one picture.
The I&B ministry also wants to ensure that no photographs from the PM’s events are released without clearance from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Images of Prime Minister’s event will be released to press through Directorate of Public Relations, PIB only after it is finally approved by PMO,” the draft SOP states.
“Usually, the practice has been that any photograph of the PM that has to be released for an advertisement is first cleared by the PMO,” said a government official.
“But due to time constraints and the pressure to release photographs of the PM’s events in real time on social media, there may have been a possibility that the PMO was not getting to clear many of these photos before they were released. We are trying to correct that,” the official added.
Another proposed SOP states that the “Photo Division will never issue soft copies of the PM’s coverage to anyone. Only hard copies are to be issued under pricing scheme to individuals for personal file records only with the restriction of publication with the prior permission of the PMO”.
The PIB had released the photograph of the PM on December 3, causing flutter on social media, where many parodies of the photograph soon started doing the rounds.