No, India Isn’t Banning Bitcoin as Mainstream Media Gets it Wrong [Again]

Contrary to the – now global – news coverage of Indian authorities enforcing an imminent ‘ban’ on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, India is, quite simply, not banning cryptocurrencies nor their trading on exchanges.

As CCN reported yesterday, India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley was delivering the country’s budget for 2018-19 when he touched on the subject of cryptocurrencies and their usage in the country.

To quote, Jaitley stated:

“The Government does not consider cryptocurrencies as legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate the use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payments system.”

The takeaways from the statement are:

  • Indian authorities do not recognize bitcoin as legal tender.
  • Indian authorities will crackdown on cryptocurrency usage in illegitimate activities and;
  • Indian authorities will dissuade the public from using cryptocurrencies as payment instruments.

Jaitley did not make any pointed remark on a ban of cryptocurrencies, nor signal a clampdown on cryptocurrency exchanges. A side note – India’s tax authorities are, in fact, using the help of cryptocurrency exchanges to chase tax evaders.

However, the immediate aftermath of Jaitley’s remark sparked a torrent of erroneous reporting from India’s national press and mainstream media outlets about the Indian government outlawing and banning cryptocurrencies.

“Arun Jaitley has just killed India’s cryptocurrency party,” screamed a headline from Quartz India, one of the earliest mainstream publications to report on the finance minister’s statement. ‘It appears to be the end of the road for cryptocurrencies in India’, read the introduction to the article with the rest following in a similar tone.

A prominent news anchor for a major TV news channel watched by tens of millions of viewers wrote: “Bitcoin to be banned. Crypto currency illegal in India says Arun Jaitley” on her Twitter account of over a million followers.

“India vows to eliminate use of cryptocurrencies,” read a dramatic headline from Reuters India, pointing to a “no-holds-barred attack on virtual currencies such as bitcoin” by Indian authorities.

Global mainstream reports ran with the same narrative. “Bitcoin Price Slides Again As India Announces Ban Plan” read a headline from Fortune. That has since been amended to “India Just Caused the Price of Bitcoin to Slide Again.”

No Ban. Repeat: No Ban!

As CCN stressed yesterday, none of the above rings true. To be precise, Jaitley spoke of a crackdown on the abuse of cryptocurrencies in illegal activities as well as their use as a method of payment…

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