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Bom HC asks media houses to exercise restraint, per directions against ‘media trial’

The HC had issued specific directions and guidelines when dealing with the media trial in actor Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case

06 Mar 2021

Media TrialsImage courtesy: Amit Bandre / https://www.newindianexpress.com

 

The Bombay High Court was faced with another case where media houses had crossed a line and published objectionable content in a criminal case, harming the reputation of the parties involved. In Pune, a Class 10 student had fallen off the balcony of her house and died. 

After this incident, various print and electronic media started circulating news alleging that the deceased was having illicit relations with one Y. Around 12 audio clips of alleged conversations of daughter X with some unknown person were circulated by political parties and media, the contents of which were to defame the name and image of the Petitioner and his family and his daughter.

The Counsel for the petitioner, Shirish Gupte, cited the directions and guidelines issued by the Bombay High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta in Nilesh Navalakha v. UOI and ors. The bench had reprimanded the media houses and warned them against conducting ‘media trials’ and had said that that if news channels had in fact found any incriminating evidence pertaining to any case, they should provide it to the police.

The bench comprising Justices Manish Pitale and SS Shinde issued notice to the respondents and in the interim directed them to scrupulously follow the guidelines in the Nilesh Navlakha case and not to publish or give any unnecessary publicity to the incident of death of the daughter X of the Petitioner and further alleged illicit relationship with Y.

The complete order may be read  here:

 

Related:

From Watchdog to Lapdog, Weaponisation of the India Media

SSR Case: Bom HC reprimands news channels for 'media trial'

Javed Akhtar vs Kangana Ranaut: Mumbai court issues bailable warrant against Ranaut

Bom HC asks media houses to exercise restraint, per directions against ‘media trial’

The HC had issued specific directions and guidelines when dealing with the media trial in actor Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case

Media TrialsImage courtesy: Amit Bandre / https://www.newindianexpress.com

 

The Bombay High Court was faced with another case where media houses had crossed a line and published objectionable content in a criminal case, harming the reputation of the parties involved. In Pune, a Class 10 student had fallen off the balcony of her house and died. 

After this incident, various print and electronic media started circulating news alleging that the deceased was having illicit relations with one Y. Around 12 audio clips of alleged conversations of daughter X with some unknown person were circulated by political parties and media, the contents of which were to defame the name and image of the Petitioner and his family and his daughter.

The Counsel for the petitioner, Shirish Gupte, cited the directions and guidelines issued by the Bombay High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta in Nilesh Navalakha v. UOI and ors. The bench had reprimanded the media houses and warned them against conducting ‘media trials’ and had said that that if news channels had in fact found any incriminating evidence pertaining to any case, they should provide it to the police.

The bench comprising Justices Manish Pitale and SS Shinde issued notice to the respondents and in the interim directed them to scrupulously follow the guidelines in the Nilesh Navlakha case and not to publish or give any unnecessary publicity to the incident of death of the daughter X of the Petitioner and further alleged illicit relationship with Y.

The complete order may be read  here:

 

Related:

From Watchdog to Lapdog, Weaponisation of the India Media

SSR Case: Bom HC reprimands news channels for 'media trial'

Javed Akhtar vs Kangana Ranaut: Mumbai court issues bailable warrant against Ranaut

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Scrap rules proposed to monitor digital media: Journalists’ organisations

National Alliance of Journalists, and the Delhi Union of Journalists, say the rules are an attack publications critical of the government

04 Mar 2021

Image Courtesy:countercurrents.org

The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), have issued a statement demanding that the “ominous” rules proposed to “monitor digital media” be scrapped. The unions, of which many working journalists are members, have stated that the rules come in the wake of “manifold attacks on articles critical of the government and increasing attacks on freedom of the press and  journalistic rights.”

The unions have highlighted that it was within days of the Union Government framing rules to monitor digital media, that Manipur police went to the home of a local journalist who had hosted a discussion on the rules on his Facebook page. It was on Monday, March 1, that Paojel Chaoba, was slapped with a notice from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled state government under the recently notified Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

According to multiple news reports, this was the first official action under the new rules that were announced on February 25. However, the notice was withdrawn a day later. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had also clarified that the central government alone could enforce the Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 

However, the NAJ and DUJ, statement signed by office bearers N. Kondaiah, S.K.Pande and Sujata  Madhok, highlights that these rules are “clearly a move to control the digital news media” as well as OTT platforms, and social media companies. It states that the so-called “discomfort among a section of people” on the streaming platforms showing nudity or advocating political positions, is a “pretext for clamping down  on the entire digital spectrum. Earlier, governments at both the centre and the states have used criminal  laws, including sedition and defamation laws, to reign in journalists whose reportage and opinions they  disagree with. The Rules are one more step in this direction.”

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has delved deep into the recently released Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and has raised several red flags about privacy and censorship. The code that was announced recently covers social media platforms, digital media including news and even has rules for OTT platforms. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) will oversee the implementation in Social Media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will oversee digital media. Ever since the announcement, especially its tone and tenor and usage of words like, “Social media platforms welcome to do business in India but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India,” there have been widespread concerns primarily pertaining to misuse of the provisions to scuttle dissent and privacy. The IFF’s analysis of exactly how it impacts users and service providers, may be read here.

According to the unions, privacy is a “huge concern, as the Rules mandate that social media platforms must divulge to  government agencies the originator of any post, irrespective of encryption by companies like Signal or  WhatsApp.” Journalists may “no longer be able to protect their sources,” and this will directly affect the media’s access to information. The unions have added that the rules “have been arbitrarily drafted without adequate consultation with stakeholders and “infringe on our Constitutional freedoms, both as citizens and as media persons. We demand that they be immediately withdrawn."

Related:

IFF analyses new social media Ethics Code and digital media rules
Is there Social Justice in the Digital Economy?

Scrap rules proposed to monitor digital media: Journalists’ organisations

National Alliance of Journalists, and the Delhi Union of Journalists, say the rules are an attack publications critical of the government

Image Courtesy:countercurrents.org

The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), have issued a statement demanding that the “ominous” rules proposed to “monitor digital media” be scrapped. The unions, of which many working journalists are members, have stated that the rules come in the wake of “manifold attacks on articles critical of the government and increasing attacks on freedom of the press and  journalistic rights.”

The unions have highlighted that it was within days of the Union Government framing rules to monitor digital media, that Manipur police went to the home of a local journalist who had hosted a discussion on the rules on his Facebook page. It was on Monday, March 1, that Paojel Chaoba, was slapped with a notice from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled state government under the recently notified Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

According to multiple news reports, this was the first official action under the new rules that were announced on February 25. However, the notice was withdrawn a day later. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had also clarified that the central government alone could enforce the Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 

However, the NAJ and DUJ, statement signed by office bearers N. Kondaiah, S.K.Pande and Sujata  Madhok, highlights that these rules are “clearly a move to control the digital news media” as well as OTT platforms, and social media companies. It states that the so-called “discomfort among a section of people” on the streaming platforms showing nudity or advocating political positions, is a “pretext for clamping down  on the entire digital spectrum. Earlier, governments at both the centre and the states have used criminal  laws, including sedition and defamation laws, to reign in journalists whose reportage and opinions they  disagree with. The Rules are one more step in this direction.”

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has delved deep into the recently released Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and has raised several red flags about privacy and censorship. The code that was announced recently covers social media platforms, digital media including news and even has rules for OTT platforms. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) will oversee the implementation in Social Media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will oversee digital media. Ever since the announcement, especially its tone and tenor and usage of words like, “Social media platforms welcome to do business in India but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India,” there have been widespread concerns primarily pertaining to misuse of the provisions to scuttle dissent and privacy. The IFF’s analysis of exactly how it impacts users and service providers, may be read here.

According to the unions, privacy is a “huge concern, as the Rules mandate that social media platforms must divulge to  government agencies the originator of any post, irrespective of encryption by companies like Signal or  WhatsApp.” Journalists may “no longer be able to protect their sources,” and this will directly affect the media’s access to information. The unions have added that the rules “have been arbitrarily drafted without adequate consultation with stakeholders and “infringe on our Constitutional freedoms, both as citizens and as media persons. We demand that they be immediately withdrawn."

Related:

IFF analyses new social media Ethics Code and digital media rules
Is there Social Justice in the Digital Economy?

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HRDA appeals to NHRC over illegal arrest of journalist Saleem Khan

Khan was allegedly harassed by a vegetable vendor and falsely accused when he reported on the inadequate amenities to shopkeepers in MP

03 Mar 2021

journalist arrest

Human Rights Defenders’ Alert India (HRDA) is a Tamil Nadu based Human Rights forum that works towards initiating actions on behalf of Human Rights Defenders under threat or with security concerns.

This forum of Human Rights Defenders has written to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), expressing concern regarding the harassment, fabricated charges and wrongful arrest of journalist Saleem Khan by police officials in Madhya Pradesh.

They have alleged that on October 25, 2020, Saleem Khan visited the mandi in Panna district, where he witnessed an ongoing dispute between the vegetable vendors and other shopkeepers over slots in the mandi. Local TV journalist Durgesh Shishvhare from Sadhana News was also present to cover a story at the mandi and as they were doing their work, both were stopped by one Mohammad Iliyas, a vegetable vendor, and his friends.

The two journalists did not wish to enter into an altercation and hence, stopped taking photographs and video footage. Later that day, Saleem Khan published an article about the lack of amenities to shopkeepers at the mandi on his news portal including comments of the mandi secretary Rajkumar Dwivedi.

As he sent links of the story on WhatsApp, he received threatening messages from Iliyas, and complained about it to the then Superintendent of Police (SP) Mayank Awasthi. He was later called to the Police Station on December 27 last year and was made to wait for around five hours.

Eventually, around 3 PM, Sub-Inspector at the Panna police station Balveer Singh took Saleem to the officer in charge, Inspector Arun Soni who told him that they were placing him under arrest and confiscated his mobile phone.

Soni informed him that there were several complaints against him. The HRDA complaint states how Khan was denied to speak to his lawyer. He was arrested on the basis of an FIR filed by Mohammad Iliyas who alleged that Saleem Khan had abused, assaulted and threatened him on December 23, 2020, in the presence of several eyewitnesses.

Saleem Khan, who was initially booked for causing voluntary hurt, uttering obscene words in public and criminal intimidation was granted bail but the police withheld his mobile phone and gave it only after several calls from his lawyers. The police subsequently added section 386 (extortion) of the Indian Penal Code to his FIR, which is a non-bailable offence.

The complaint filed by HRDA alleged that neither an arrest memo was created at time of the arrest, nor a seizure memo was given to the jailed journalist for seizure of his phone. Further the complaint states that, “Mr. Khan was not allowed to call his lawyer despite his request, a violation of his right as mentioned in the DK Basu guidelines. He was asked to come to the police station under the false pretext of picking up a copy of his FIR, not told of the charges or questioned the entire day.”

The case against Khan seems to be a case of abuse of power and fabricated charges on him due to his reportage, as per HRDA. They have also questioned as to why the charges of extortion were added to his FIR later, despite there being no mention in the complaint.

Emphasising on the important work journalists do, the complaint to NHRC states that Journalists are human rights defenders as they face major risks as a result of their work both from the state and out of state actors. “The protection of journalists and human rights defenders, and ending impunity for attacks against them, is a global priority for safeguarding freedom of expression,” read the complaint.

Observing that the fourth pillar of the democracy will crumble if journalists are charged in fake cases every time, they try to bring a story to light, the human rights forum appealed the Commission to undertake an urgent, transparent and impartial investigation into the flouting of arrest procedures and the fabricated charges on Human Rights Defender Mr. Saleem Khan.

Directions have been sought from the Director General of Police of Madhya Pradesh, to take urgent and strict actions against the Mr. Mayank Awasthi, (the then) Superintendent of Police, Panna, Inspector Arun Soni, Sub-Inspector Balveer Singh, and other police personnel of the Panna police station.

They have also sought directions to the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh to provide compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 to Mr. Saleem Khan for the mental trauma inflicted upon him by the personnel of the Panna police station.

The entire complaint to NHRC may be read here:

 

Related:

Indian journalists decry attack on freedom of press amidst Covid-19

Delhi HC quashes defamation case against Mitali Saran over RSS article

J&K journalists allege soldiers assaulted them during a show

Kaimur firing: HRDA appeals to NHRC for urgent action

HRDA appeals to NHRC over illegal arrest of journalist Saleem Khan

Khan was allegedly harassed by a vegetable vendor and falsely accused when he reported on the inadequate amenities to shopkeepers in MP

journalist arrest

Human Rights Defenders’ Alert India (HRDA) is a Tamil Nadu based Human Rights forum that works towards initiating actions on behalf of Human Rights Defenders under threat or with security concerns.

This forum of Human Rights Defenders has written to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), expressing concern regarding the harassment, fabricated charges and wrongful arrest of journalist Saleem Khan by police officials in Madhya Pradesh.

They have alleged that on October 25, 2020, Saleem Khan visited the mandi in Panna district, where he witnessed an ongoing dispute between the vegetable vendors and other shopkeepers over slots in the mandi. Local TV journalist Durgesh Shishvhare from Sadhana News was also present to cover a story at the mandi and as they were doing their work, both were stopped by one Mohammad Iliyas, a vegetable vendor, and his friends.

The two journalists did not wish to enter into an altercation and hence, stopped taking photographs and video footage. Later that day, Saleem Khan published an article about the lack of amenities to shopkeepers at the mandi on his news portal including comments of the mandi secretary Rajkumar Dwivedi.

As he sent links of the story on WhatsApp, he received threatening messages from Iliyas, and complained about it to the then Superintendent of Police (SP) Mayank Awasthi. He was later called to the Police Station on December 27 last year and was made to wait for around five hours.

Eventually, around 3 PM, Sub-Inspector at the Panna police station Balveer Singh took Saleem to the officer in charge, Inspector Arun Soni who told him that they were placing him under arrest and confiscated his mobile phone.

Soni informed him that there were several complaints against him. The HRDA complaint states how Khan was denied to speak to his lawyer. He was arrested on the basis of an FIR filed by Mohammad Iliyas who alleged that Saleem Khan had abused, assaulted and threatened him on December 23, 2020, in the presence of several eyewitnesses.

Saleem Khan, who was initially booked for causing voluntary hurt, uttering obscene words in public and criminal intimidation was granted bail but the police withheld his mobile phone and gave it only after several calls from his lawyers. The police subsequently added section 386 (extortion) of the Indian Penal Code to his FIR, which is a non-bailable offence.

The complaint filed by HRDA alleged that neither an arrest memo was created at time of the arrest, nor a seizure memo was given to the jailed journalist for seizure of his phone. Further the complaint states that, “Mr. Khan was not allowed to call his lawyer despite his request, a violation of his right as mentioned in the DK Basu guidelines. He was asked to come to the police station under the false pretext of picking up a copy of his FIR, not told of the charges or questioned the entire day.”

The case against Khan seems to be a case of abuse of power and fabricated charges on him due to his reportage, as per HRDA. They have also questioned as to why the charges of extortion were added to his FIR later, despite there being no mention in the complaint.

Emphasising on the important work journalists do, the complaint to NHRC states that Journalists are human rights defenders as they face major risks as a result of their work both from the state and out of state actors. “The protection of journalists and human rights defenders, and ending impunity for attacks against them, is a global priority for safeguarding freedom of expression,” read the complaint.

Observing that the fourth pillar of the democracy will crumble if journalists are charged in fake cases every time, they try to bring a story to light, the human rights forum appealed the Commission to undertake an urgent, transparent and impartial investigation into the flouting of arrest procedures and the fabricated charges on Human Rights Defender Mr. Saleem Khan.

Directions have been sought from the Director General of Police of Madhya Pradesh, to take urgent and strict actions against the Mr. Mayank Awasthi, (the then) Superintendent of Police, Panna, Inspector Arun Soni, Sub-Inspector Balveer Singh, and other police personnel of the Panna police station.

They have also sought directions to the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh to provide compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 to Mr. Saleem Khan for the mental trauma inflicted upon him by the personnel of the Panna police station.

The entire complaint to NHRC may be read here:

 

Related:

Indian journalists decry attack on freedom of press amidst Covid-19

Delhi HC quashes defamation case against Mitali Saran over RSS article

J&K journalists allege soldiers assaulted them during a show

Kaimur firing: HRDA appeals to NHRC for urgent action

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Madras HC refuses to hear PIL seeking regulation of social media content

The Bench opined that the petitioner could opt to live in the ‘stone age’ as courts cannot impose sanctions on how the online world operates

03 Mar 2021

Image Courtesy:lawsisto.com

The Madras High Court declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought directions to the Central government to censor content broadcast on social media platforms.

A Bench compising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice R Hemalatha remarked, “It is open to the petitioner to live in the stone age or to protect his family or his children from the advances of technology…. Courts are not there to impose sanctions or guidelines on how the media or even social media operates and it is for the other agencies to do so, based on the policy decision taken by the legislature of the day or the executive arm.”

However, the Bench recognised the petitioner’s right to propagate any kind of philosophy, and his constitutional right of choice, and held that he had the right to approach the appropriate legislature or executive to effectuate such ideas.

Interestingly, in January, the High Court Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M. M. Sundresh had disposed of a plea against the telecast of Sanskrit news in a Doordarshan Tamil television channel. LiveLaw quoted the court saying,

“When the writ petition does not find the Sanskrit seems to be tasteful or useful, there is no compulsion for the petitioner to tune in and it is open to the petitioner to switch off the television and get some other form of entertainment during the period the Sanskrit news is read.”

The High Court had also asked the petitioner to keep up his “public spirit” and bring matters involving only public interest to Court.

The order may be read here: 

Related:

New IT Rules: How Centre is planning to address online grievances
Ethics Code for Social Media, rules for OTT platforms, online news

Madras HC refuses to hear PIL seeking regulation of social media content

The Bench opined that the petitioner could opt to live in the ‘stone age’ as courts cannot impose sanctions on how the online world operates

Image Courtesy:lawsisto.com

The Madras High Court declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought directions to the Central government to censor content broadcast on social media platforms.

A Bench compising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice R Hemalatha remarked, “It is open to the petitioner to live in the stone age or to protect his family or his children from the advances of technology…. Courts are not there to impose sanctions or guidelines on how the media or even social media operates and it is for the other agencies to do so, based on the policy decision taken by the legislature of the day or the executive arm.”

However, the Bench recognised the petitioner’s right to propagate any kind of philosophy, and his constitutional right of choice, and held that he had the right to approach the appropriate legislature or executive to effectuate such ideas.

Interestingly, in January, the High Court Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M. M. Sundresh had disposed of a plea against the telecast of Sanskrit news in a Doordarshan Tamil television channel. LiveLaw quoted the court saying,

“When the writ petition does not find the Sanskrit seems to be tasteful or useful, there is no compulsion for the petitioner to tune in and it is open to the petitioner to switch off the television and get some other form of entertainment during the period the Sanskrit news is read.”

The High Court had also asked the petitioner to keep up his “public spirit” and bring matters involving only public interest to Court.

The order may be read here: 

Related:

New IT Rules: How Centre is planning to address online grievances
Ethics Code for Social Media, rules for OTT platforms, online news

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Delhi HC quashes defamation case against Mitali Saran over RSS article

The complainant who claimed to be an RSS member, had alleged that the article had lowered his reputation

02 Mar 2021

Mitali Saran

The Delhi High Court has quashed a defamation case against journalist Mitali Saran and newspaper Business Standard, with respect to an article allegedly defaming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its members.

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait opined that the complaint was not maintainable as “the complainant has not been able to show as to how he is the ‘person aggrieved’ within the definition of Section 199(1) Cr.PC. and thus, the contents of complaint suffer from vices of illegality or infirmity.”

Further, the Single-judge Bench also held, “The complainant has not led any evidence to establish how his reputation was harmed or his moral or intellectual character was lowered as a result of the said article…he has failed to prove that article brought any kind of defamation to him or that it has lowered the reputation of RSS in the eyes of his friends or RSS.”

The complainant Lohitaksha Shukla had approached the court against Saran and Business Standard, alleging that an article titled “The Long and Short of it” was not based on facts and contained some defamatory insinuations against RSS and its members.

He claimed that it accused the members of RSS to be oppressive to Indians, mentally disturbed and disrespectful to Indian national symbols, ridden with psycho sexual complexes, and practitioners of discrimination based on caste, and physically unfit. He had also averred that being a member of RSS, his reputation has been adversely affected after the publication of this article.

The court held that the impugned article did not directly or indirectly lower his “moral and intellectual character”. The court also noted that the “complainant claims himself to be Swayamsevak of RSS and its member but again, he hasn’t gotten any witness examined from RSS or brought any material on record to prove that he is a member of RSS.”

The Delhi High Court further recorded that even in terms of Section 199 (1) CrPC, a Magistrate could take cognisance of the offence only upon receiving a complaint by a person who is genuinely aggrieved. Justice Kait reportedly said, “The purpose and intent of this provision is to limit the power of the Magistrate to take cognizance of offences pertaining to defamation in order to prevent and discourage the filing of frivolous complaints.”

Accordingly, all complaints were dismissed and proceedings emanating from it were also quashed.

The judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

Javed Akhtar vs Kangana Ranaut: Mumbai court issues bailable warrant against Ranaut

I feel vindicated: Priya Ramani acquitted in MJ Akbar defamation case

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Arnabgate: Republic TV sends legal notice to Indian Express

Delhi HC quashes defamation case against Mitali Saran over RSS article

The complainant who claimed to be an RSS member, had alleged that the article had lowered his reputation

Mitali Saran

The Delhi High Court has quashed a defamation case against journalist Mitali Saran and newspaper Business Standard, with respect to an article allegedly defaming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its members.

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait opined that the complaint was not maintainable as “the complainant has not been able to show as to how he is the ‘person aggrieved’ within the definition of Section 199(1) Cr.PC. and thus, the contents of complaint suffer from vices of illegality or infirmity.”

Further, the Single-judge Bench also held, “The complainant has not led any evidence to establish how his reputation was harmed or his moral or intellectual character was lowered as a result of the said article…he has failed to prove that article brought any kind of defamation to him or that it has lowered the reputation of RSS in the eyes of his friends or RSS.”

The complainant Lohitaksha Shukla had approached the court against Saran and Business Standard, alleging that an article titled “The Long and Short of it” was not based on facts and contained some defamatory insinuations against RSS and its members.

He claimed that it accused the members of RSS to be oppressive to Indians, mentally disturbed and disrespectful to Indian national symbols, ridden with psycho sexual complexes, and practitioners of discrimination based on caste, and physically unfit. He had also averred that being a member of RSS, his reputation has been adversely affected after the publication of this article.

The court held that the impugned article did not directly or indirectly lower his “moral and intellectual character”. The court also noted that the “complainant claims himself to be Swayamsevak of RSS and its member but again, he hasn’t gotten any witness examined from RSS or brought any material on record to prove that he is a member of RSS.”

The Delhi High Court further recorded that even in terms of Section 199 (1) CrPC, a Magistrate could take cognisance of the offence only upon receiving a complaint by a person who is genuinely aggrieved. Justice Kait reportedly said, “The purpose and intent of this provision is to limit the power of the Magistrate to take cognizance of offences pertaining to defamation in order to prevent and discourage the filing of frivolous complaints.”

Accordingly, all complaints were dismissed and proceedings emanating from it were also quashed.

The judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

Javed Akhtar vs Kangana Ranaut: Mumbai court issues bailable warrant against Ranaut

I feel vindicated: Priya Ramani acquitted in MJ Akbar defamation case

Times Now files Rs. 100 crore defamation suit against Newslaundry!

Arnabgate: Republic TV sends legal notice to Indian Express

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Is WhatsApp facilitating the demonisation of Indian Muslims?

A study explains the meaning and consequences of Fear Speech that is spread on WhatsApp as it is a powerful and cheap tool. often as potent as Hate Speech

26 Feb 2021

Indian Muslims

A critical report titled, Short is the Road that Leads from Fear to Hate: Fear Speech in Indian WhatsApp Groups by IIT Kharagpur’s Punyajoy Saha, Binny Mathew, Animesh Mukherjee and MIT Institute of Data, Systems and Society’s (USA) Kiran Garimella, elucidates the concept of ‘Fear Speech’ against Muslims in India.

Observing that social media platforms do play a massive role in radicalising the perpetrators of communal clashes, India is one of the 14 countries where religious minorities are constantly under attack, especially Muslims after the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.

Hate Speech vs Fear Speech

Since India has strict laws against Hate Speech, the report explains a “subtle way” by which readers are incited against the minority group. This is called Fear Speech which is defined as “an expression aimed at instilling (existential) fear of a target (ethnic or religious) group.” Fear is generated through spreading information about the harmful things done by the target groups (Muslims) in the past or present and mere speculation showing the target group will take over and dominate in the future.

As an example, the report differentiates between Hate Speech and Fear Speech. A sentence that categorises itself as hate speech may sound something like, “That’s why I hate Islam! See how these mullahs are celebrating. Seditious traitors!!” 

Fear Speech, on the other hand, would read as, “Leave chatting and read this post or else all your life will be left in chatting. In 1378, a part was separated from India, became an Islamic nation - named Iran . . . and now Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Kerala are on the verge of becoming an Islamic state . . . People who do love jihad — is a Muslim. Those who think of ruining the country — Every single one of them is a Muslim!!!! Everyone who does not share this message forward should be a Muslim. If you want to give Muslims a good answer, please share!! We will finally know how many Hindus are united today!!”

Hate speech is broadly defined as a form of expression that “attacks or diminishes, that incites violence or hate against groups, based on specific characteristics such as physical appearance, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or other, and it can occur with different linguistic styles, even in subtle forms or when humour is used.” It is more direct in its effect.

Fear Speech is a more indirect form of expression, where the aim is to instil fear to an extent of targeting and vilifying a particular community. It is an expression that attempts to instil a sense of fear in the mind of the readers and though it cannot be pinpointed if fear speech is the cause of the violence, it lowers the threshold to violence. Fear speech messages talk about topics such as aggression, crime, hate, fighting and negative emotions in general.

Spread of Fear Speech

The study explains the various means and tools used to promote negativity towards Muslims and portraying that they might be inciting disharmony across the nation and promote interfaith unions to “destroy” Hindu religion.

Very interestingly, the report explores the use of emojis on WhatsApp to represent ideas. The Hindutva ideologists prefer using the Bhagwa flag, bow and arrow, Trishul (trident), shankh (shell) emojis. Another set of emojis comprising pig and devil faces are used to represent Muslims in a toxic manner.

To have a deeper understanding of the topics discussed in fear speech messages, this report extensively explains the common words used with respect to certain sensitive topics. For instance, if the WhatsApp message is about ‘Love Jihad’, the keywords used in the whole text are- temples smashed, answer, rape, girls, Modi, women, book hadith, Hindu, whosoever won, work, robbery, etc.

As another instance, for the issue of Kerala riots, the messages have commonly used words like village, temple, Kerala, Quran, history, Mewat, congress, rape, Christian, Dalit, om sai, Love Jihad, come, start and Earth.

Statistically, the authors of the report have revealed that they collected data from over 5,000 such WhatsApp groups, gathering more than 2 million posts. Using this data, they manually curated a dataset of 27,000 posts out of which 8,000 posts accounted for fear speech.

They observed that the fear speech messages are re-posted by a greater number of users to more groups primarily because the users who post such messages are centrally placed in the WhatsApp network. Fear speech messages clearly fit into a set of topics relating to aggression, crime, and, violence showcasing Muslims as criminals and using dehumanising representations of them.

WhatsApp acts as a good target for bad actors who want to spread hatred towards a certain community at scale. On platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it can monitor the content posted and hence provide content moderation tools and countering mechanisms in place like suspension of the user and blocking of the post for limiting the use of harmful/hateful language. But WhatsApp is an end-to-end encrypted platform, where the message can be seen only by the end users. This makes the spread of any form of harmful content much easier.

But the report concludes that a quick Google search of the fear speech messages collected by them revealed the prevalence of the fear speech messages on Facebook and YouTube as well.

The entire report may be read here: 

Related:

I have no regrets, if need be, I’d do it again: Kapil Mishra
Bengaluru based group files complaint against Anil Vij for ‘eradication’ comment
Rinku Sharma’s murder is ‘jihad’: Kapil Mishra
India under Modi is living through a Dark Age: Professor DN Jha

Is WhatsApp facilitating the demonisation of Indian Muslims?

A study explains the meaning and consequences of Fear Speech that is spread on WhatsApp as it is a powerful and cheap tool. often as potent as Hate Speech

Indian Muslims

A critical report titled, Short is the Road that Leads from Fear to Hate: Fear Speech in Indian WhatsApp Groups by IIT Kharagpur’s Punyajoy Saha, Binny Mathew, Animesh Mukherjee and MIT Institute of Data, Systems and Society’s (USA) Kiran Garimella, elucidates the concept of ‘Fear Speech’ against Muslims in India.

Observing that social media platforms do play a massive role in radicalising the perpetrators of communal clashes, India is one of the 14 countries where religious minorities are constantly under attack, especially Muslims after the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.

Hate Speech vs Fear Speech

Since India has strict laws against Hate Speech, the report explains a “subtle way” by which readers are incited against the minority group. This is called Fear Speech which is defined as “an expression aimed at instilling (existential) fear of a target (ethnic or religious) group.” Fear is generated through spreading information about the harmful things done by the target groups (Muslims) in the past or present and mere speculation showing the target group will take over and dominate in the future.

As an example, the report differentiates between Hate Speech and Fear Speech. A sentence that categorises itself as hate speech may sound something like, “That’s why I hate Islam! See how these mullahs are celebrating. Seditious traitors!!” 

Fear Speech, on the other hand, would read as, “Leave chatting and read this post or else all your life will be left in chatting. In 1378, a part was separated from India, became an Islamic nation - named Iran . . . and now Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Kerala are on the verge of becoming an Islamic state . . . People who do love jihad — is a Muslim. Those who think of ruining the country — Every single one of them is a Muslim!!!! Everyone who does not share this message forward should be a Muslim. If you want to give Muslims a good answer, please share!! We will finally know how many Hindus are united today!!”

Hate speech is broadly defined as a form of expression that “attacks or diminishes, that incites violence or hate against groups, based on specific characteristics such as physical appearance, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or other, and it can occur with different linguistic styles, even in subtle forms or when humour is used.” It is more direct in its effect.

Fear Speech is a more indirect form of expression, where the aim is to instil fear to an extent of targeting and vilifying a particular community. It is an expression that attempts to instil a sense of fear in the mind of the readers and though it cannot be pinpointed if fear speech is the cause of the violence, it lowers the threshold to violence. Fear speech messages talk about topics such as aggression, crime, hate, fighting and negative emotions in general.

Spread of Fear Speech

The study explains the various means and tools used to promote negativity towards Muslims and portraying that they might be inciting disharmony across the nation and promote interfaith unions to “destroy” Hindu religion.

Very interestingly, the report explores the use of emojis on WhatsApp to represent ideas. The Hindutva ideologists prefer using the Bhagwa flag, bow and arrow, Trishul (trident), shankh (shell) emojis. Another set of emojis comprising pig and devil faces are used to represent Muslims in a toxic manner.

To have a deeper understanding of the topics discussed in fear speech messages, this report extensively explains the common words used with respect to certain sensitive topics. For instance, if the WhatsApp message is about ‘Love Jihad’, the keywords used in the whole text are- temples smashed, answer, rape, girls, Modi, women, book hadith, Hindu, whosoever won, work, robbery, etc.

As another instance, for the issue of Kerala riots, the messages have commonly used words like village, temple, Kerala, Quran, history, Mewat, congress, rape, Christian, Dalit, om sai, Love Jihad, come, start and Earth.

Statistically, the authors of the report have revealed that they collected data from over 5,000 such WhatsApp groups, gathering more than 2 million posts. Using this data, they manually curated a dataset of 27,000 posts out of which 8,000 posts accounted for fear speech.

They observed that the fear speech messages are re-posted by a greater number of users to more groups primarily because the users who post such messages are centrally placed in the WhatsApp network. Fear speech messages clearly fit into a set of topics relating to aggression, crime, and, violence showcasing Muslims as criminals and using dehumanising representations of them.

WhatsApp acts as a good target for bad actors who want to spread hatred towards a certain community at scale. On platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it can monitor the content posted and hence provide content moderation tools and countering mechanisms in place like suspension of the user and blocking of the post for limiting the use of harmful/hateful language. But WhatsApp is an end-to-end encrypted platform, where the message can be seen only by the end users. This makes the spread of any form of harmful content much easier.

But the report concludes that a quick Google search of the fear speech messages collected by them revealed the prevalence of the fear speech messages on Facebook and YouTube as well.

The entire report may be read here: 

Related:

I have no regrets, if need be, I’d do it again: Kapil Mishra
Bengaluru based group files complaint against Anil Vij for ‘eradication’ comment
Rinku Sharma’s murder is ‘jihad’: Kapil Mishra
India under Modi is living through a Dark Age: Professor DN Jha

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New IT Rules: How Centre is planning to address online grievances  

The Government has set up a strict grievance redressal mechanism for users in a bid to make the online world more transparent and accountable

26 Feb 2021

Social media
Image courtesy: https://www.dqindia.com
 

The IT Ministry has come up with a new set of rules that strictly monitor ‘offensive’ content on social media, and such social media companies have been told to disclose the first or originator of a ‘mischievous’ message or tweet. This raises questions on end-to-end encryption and subsequently privacy.

The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, lays down the mechanism of self-regulating bodies that shall be headed by a “retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, who shall be appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry”.

The concerned Regulatory body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and it is tasked to oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics, and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days. The body is mandated to provide guidance to all such social media and OTT platform entities on various aspects of the Code of Ethics.

As per the rules, a self-regulating body while disposing a grievance or an appeal will have to issue guidance or advisories to the applicable publisher/entities as under:

(a) warning, censuring, admonishing or reprimanding such entity;

(b) requiring an apology by such entity; or

(c) requiring such entity to include a warning card or a disclaimer; or

(d) in case of online curated content, direct such entity to (i) reclassify ratings of relevant content; (ii) make appropriate modification in the content descriptor, age classification and access control measures; (iii) edit synopsis of relevant content;

Compliance reports

For more transparency, the rules also require the entities and bodies to publish a monthly compliance report giving details of all complaints received and action taken on the complaints. The details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediaries need to be filed too in the report.

In order to address the grievances, Rule 8(3) lays down three levels that was initially pitched by various users:

(a) Level I - Self-regulation by the applicable entity- Any digital news entity shall appoint an India based Grievance Redressal Officer, for addressing grievances. He shall act as the nodal point for interaction with the complainant, the self-regulating body and the Ministry. The complainant must be informed of its decision within 15 days.

A person, who is dissatisfied with the response of the Grievance Redressal Officer, can appeal to the self-regulating body formed for the concerned entity. As a last resort, an appeal can be made to the Central Government.

(b) Level II — Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities- As mentioned above, all applicable entities shall form an independent Self-Regulatory Body that shall be headed by a retired judge of either the top court or a High Court, appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry.

The Body will further comprise of maximum six members, being experts from the field of media, broadcasting, technology and entertainment.

(c) Level III - Oversight mechanism by the Central Government- If the applicable entity fails to comply with the advisories of the self-regulating body, the body is mandated to refer the matter to the Oversight Mechanism within prescribed time.

The Oversight Mechanism can publish a charter, including Codes of Practices for self-regulating bodies, develop the Grievance portal for prompt disposal of the grievance, establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances of users, etc.

Notification by the Significant publishers and content creators

Rule 16 provides that a significant “publisher of news and current affairs content” shall mandatorily notify the Broadcast Seva that “it is operating in the territory of India, by furnishing the information that may be required on the Broadcast Seva by the Ministry, for the purpose of enabling communication and coordination with such publisher.”

A significant publisher of news and current affairs content creator is determined if it:

(a) publishes news and current affairs content as a systematic business activity;

(b) operates in the territory of India;

(c) has not less than five lakh subscribers, or fifty lakh followers on the services of any significant social media intermediary, as the case may be.

The Rules may be read here: 

Related:

Ethics Code for Social Media, rules for OTT platforms, online news

From Watchdog to Lapdog, Weaponisation of the India Media

Unnao reports: Twitter handles of Barkha Dutt's portal, 7 others booked

New IT Rules: How Centre is planning to address online grievances  

The Government has set up a strict grievance redressal mechanism for users in a bid to make the online world more transparent and accountable

Social media
Image courtesy: https://www.dqindia.com
 

The IT Ministry has come up with a new set of rules that strictly monitor ‘offensive’ content on social media, and such social media companies have been told to disclose the first or originator of a ‘mischievous’ message or tweet. This raises questions on end-to-end encryption and subsequently privacy.

The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, lays down the mechanism of self-regulating bodies that shall be headed by a “retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, who shall be appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry”.

The concerned Regulatory body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and it is tasked to oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics, and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days. The body is mandated to provide guidance to all such social media and OTT platform entities on various aspects of the Code of Ethics.

As per the rules, a self-regulating body while disposing a grievance or an appeal will have to issue guidance or advisories to the applicable publisher/entities as under:

(a) warning, censuring, admonishing or reprimanding such entity;

(b) requiring an apology by such entity; or

(c) requiring such entity to include a warning card or a disclaimer; or

(d) in case of online curated content, direct such entity to (i) reclassify ratings of relevant content; (ii) make appropriate modification in the content descriptor, age classification and access control measures; (iii) edit synopsis of relevant content;

Compliance reports

For more transparency, the rules also require the entities and bodies to publish a monthly compliance report giving details of all complaints received and action taken on the complaints. The details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediaries need to be filed too in the report.

In order to address the grievances, Rule 8(3) lays down three levels that was initially pitched by various users:

(a) Level I - Self-regulation by the applicable entity- Any digital news entity shall appoint an India based Grievance Redressal Officer, for addressing grievances. He shall act as the nodal point for interaction with the complainant, the self-regulating body and the Ministry. The complainant must be informed of its decision within 15 days.

A person, who is dissatisfied with the response of the Grievance Redressal Officer, can appeal to the self-regulating body formed for the concerned entity. As a last resort, an appeal can be made to the Central Government.

(b) Level II — Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities- As mentioned above, all applicable entities shall form an independent Self-Regulatory Body that shall be headed by a retired judge of either the top court or a High Court, appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry.

The Body will further comprise of maximum six members, being experts from the field of media, broadcasting, technology and entertainment.

(c) Level III - Oversight mechanism by the Central Government- If the applicable entity fails to comply with the advisories of the self-regulating body, the body is mandated to refer the matter to the Oversight Mechanism within prescribed time.

The Oversight Mechanism can publish a charter, including Codes of Practices for self-regulating bodies, develop the Grievance portal for prompt disposal of the grievance, establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances of users, etc.

Notification by the Significant publishers and content creators

Rule 16 provides that a significant “publisher of news and current affairs content” shall mandatorily notify the Broadcast Seva that “it is operating in the territory of India, by furnishing the information that may be required on the Broadcast Seva by the Ministry, for the purpose of enabling communication and coordination with such publisher.”

A significant publisher of news and current affairs content creator is determined if it:

(a) publishes news and current affairs content as a systematic business activity;

(b) operates in the territory of India;

(c) has not less than five lakh subscribers, or fifty lakh followers on the services of any significant social media intermediary, as the case may be.

The Rules may be read here: 

Related:

Ethics Code for Social Media, rules for OTT platforms, online news

From Watchdog to Lapdog, Weaponisation of the India Media

Unnao reports: Twitter handles of Barkha Dutt's portal, 7 others booked

Related Articles


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Ethics Code for Social Media, rules for OTT platforms, online news

Provision for identification of first originator of information on messaging services

25 Feb 2021

Image Courtesy:entrackr.com

The Government of India has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) issued a press release saying it had come up with these guidelines “amidst growing concerns around lack of transparency, accountability and rights of users related to digital media and after elaborate consultation with the public and stakeholders” and that the code has “been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.”

Provisions for Social Media

When it comes to social media, MEITy says, “Social media platforms welcome to do business in India but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India.” It further claims, “These Rules are a fine blend of liberal touch with gentle self-regulatory framework. It works on the existing laws and statues of the country which are applicable to content whether online or offline.”

But here’s where things get interesting. MEITy says, “Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.”

While the desire to combat virtual violence against women and children is no doubt noble, the same tools can be used to curb political opposition. The use of the terms “offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India” and “the security of the State” give the government wide berth to use this provision to scuttle dissent. This also virtually legitimises a form of backdoor surveillance on these grounds.

It also says, “An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.” This again raises concerns about freedom of expression.

Digital and OTT platforms

Rules and guidelines of a primarily self-regulatory nature have been laid down for digital and OTT platforms, that also include online news providers. These will be monitored by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

Rules mandate self-classification of content into age-based categories. Also, when it comes to news, “Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.”

The government justified the need for these rules saying, “There have been widespread concerns about issues relating to digital contents both on digital media and OTT platforms. Civil Society, film makers, political leaders including Chief Minister, trade organizations and associations have all voiced their concerns and highlighted the imperative need for an appropriate institutional mechanism. The Government also received many complaints from civil society and parents requesting interventions. There were many court proceedings in the Supreme C Court and High Courts, where courts also urged the Government to take suitable measures.”

The entire press release may be read here: 

Related:

Unnao reports: Twitter handles of Barkha Dutt's portal, 7 others booked 
ED Raids & NewsClick: Weaponising law by Criminalising Free Speech
From Watchdog to Lapdog, Weaponisation of the India Media
Koo instead of Twitter: Is India becoming the next China?
Primary goals were surveillance and incriminating document delivery: Arsenal

Ethics Code for Social Media, rules for OTT platforms, online news

Provision for identification of first originator of information on messaging services

Image Courtesy:entrackr.com

The Government of India has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) issued a press release saying it had come up with these guidelines “amidst growing concerns around lack of transparency, accountability and rights of users related to digital media and after elaborate consultation with the public and stakeholders” and that the code has “been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.”

Provisions for Social Media

When it comes to social media, MEITy says, “Social media platforms welcome to do business in India but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India.” It further claims, “These Rules are a fine blend of liberal touch with gentle self-regulatory framework. It works on the existing laws and statues of the country which are applicable to content whether online or offline.”

But here’s where things get interesting. MEITy says, “Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.”

While the desire to combat virtual violence against women and children is no doubt noble, the same tools can be used to curb political opposition. The use of the terms “offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India” and “the security of the State” give the government wide berth to use this provision to scuttle dissent. This also virtually legitimises a form of backdoor surveillance on these grounds.

It also says, “An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.” This again raises concerns about freedom of expression.

Digital and OTT platforms

Rules and guidelines of a primarily self-regulatory nature have been laid down for digital and OTT platforms, that also include online news providers. These will be monitored by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

Rules mandate self-classification of content into age-based categories. Also, when it comes to news, “Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.”

The government justified the need for these rules saying, “There have been widespread concerns about issues relating to digital contents both on digital media and OTT platforms. Civil Society, film makers, political leaders including Chief Minister, trade organizations and associations have all voiced their concerns and highlighted the imperative need for an appropriate institutional mechanism. The Government also received many complaints from civil society and parents requesting interventions. There were many court proceedings in the Supreme C Court and High Courts, where courts also urged the Government to take suitable measures.”

The entire press release may be read here: 

Related:

Unnao reports: Twitter handles of Barkha Dutt's portal, 7 others booked 
ED Raids & NewsClick: Weaponising law by Criminalising Free Speech
From Watchdog to Lapdog, Weaponisation of the India Media
Koo instead of Twitter: Is India becoming the next China?
Primary goals were surveillance and incriminating document delivery: Arsenal

Related Articles


Theme

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Videos

Archives

IN FACT

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Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

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Unnao reports: Twitter handles of Barkha Dutt's portal, 7 others booked 

Others accused are, Janjagran Live, Aazad Samaj Party spokesperson Suraj Kumar Boudh, Nilim Dutta, Vijay Ambedkar, Abhay Kumar Azad, Rahul Diwakar, Nawab Satpal Tanwar

22 Feb 2021

barkha

A first information report IFIR) was lodged against eight Twitter handles for “allegedly propagating fake news in connection with the death of two girls in Unnao last week,” news portal Rediff report quoted the area police said on Monday. 

The Twitter handles include news portal 'Mojo Story', founded by senior journalist Barkha Dutt, Janjagran Live, Aazad Samaj Party spokesperson Suraj Kumar Boudh, Nilim Dutta, Vijay Ambedkar, Abhay Kumar Azad, Rahul Diwakar, Nawab Satpal Tanwar. The case was registered at the Sadar Kotwali police station area in Unnao on Sunday, and came to light soon enough. According to news reports, the FIR has been lodged for propagating 'fake and misleading news' regarding the incident, reported Rediff, quoting Assistant Superintendent of Police Vinod Kumar Pandey.

Barkha Dutt issued a public statement on Monday in reaction to the FIRs against her team for reporting Unnao murders: “We've followed journalistic principles by reporting all sides of an evolving story. To use IPC sections that are punishable with prison is pure intimidation. I am very ready to fight it and face it in court.” She updated this to add: “just when you thought it couldn't get any more shocking the Unnao Police has refused to even give us a copy of the FIR in total violation of my legal rights, and without which we cannot appeal for judicial intervention. Brazen Harassment and bullying…” Dutt has said she found it “even more suspicious is how Unnao Police has clubbed us with a bunch of politicians. The police claim the FIR against us (upto 1 year in prison) is for mentioning sexual assault, which we NEVER did. Before fact checking @themojostory the UP Police needs to fact check its FIR”

 

 

On February 17, late evening, news came in from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, that three Dalit girls were found with their hands and legs tied in the field. While two of them were found dead, the third one was taken to the District hospital and is undergoing treatment. The incident occurred in Babura village, Asoha police station area. The family members said that the girls had gone to the fields in the afternoon to fetch fodder for the cattle and did not return until late evening. Then they went looking for them in the fields and found them tied up. The doctor went on record to say that the one girl who was brought to the hospital was gasping for breath and there were indications that she was poisoned.  The District Magistrate reached the hospital to assess the situation and senior cops including IG and DIG Lucknow range reached the spot after being alerted. "The three girls were found in an unconscious state in their own field. Of them, two have died while one has been referred to the district hospital for treatment. Initial investigations suggest it is a case of poisoning. Statements of people are being recorded and the case is being investigated," Superintendent of Police Unnao had said.

The last rites of the deceased girls were performed on Friday morning amid tight security arrangements. According to later news reports Unnao Police arrestedtwo people in this connection, “accusing them of murder over one-sided love”.

However, according to Rediff, on Saturday, Congress leader Udit Raj was booked for allegedly “propagating fake news in a tweet that the teenagers were raped and their bodies cremated against the will of their family.”

The Uttar Pradesh Police has claimed that Barkha Dutt’s newspotral Mojo Story had ‘wrongly reported that the police had rushed to perform the last rites of the two deceased girls despite objections from the girls’ families’. However, Mojo Story has denied this allegation and maintains that their report was based on the girls’ families’ statements. The NewsMinute reported that FIR that was registered under Section 153 of the IPC (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 66 of the Information and Technology Act, and claimed that false information was spread by the named journalists. 

DigiPub, a collective of digital media organisations, has condemned the FIR filed against journalist Barkha Dutt amongst others for their coverage of the alleged poisoning for three Dalit teenage girls. 

The DIGIPUB statement reads as follows:

“What is most outrageous is that the FIR by Unnao police is a clear and deliberate attempt at muzzling journalists and keeping them from doing their jobs. Not only this, Unnao SP Anand Kulkarni also threatened further action. Mojo Story in their tweet, denied these claims and cleared their stand on the news saying that inputs were given by a local reporter followed by a report by a Delhi correspondent. To challenge the claims, they asked for a copy of FIR which was refused by Unnao Police without which Mojo Story cannot appeal for a legal intervention.

Mojo Story has been penalised for reporting what the families of the Dalit girls told their reporter, that the police had been in favour of an early cremation but the families insisted otherwise. The police denial on this was also reported. The platform has also called out the police for clubbing them with politicians who had suggested falsely that the girls had been raped. The news platform has said it has not reported anything of the kind.

This is not the first time such attempts have been made to stop journalists from reporting, but it has become a pattern which needs to be addressed immediately by the government of Uttar Pradesh and the center needs to take a note. In this case, the sections used by the UP police allow for jail upto a year. Recently, UP police arrested Siddiqui Kappan for reporting on Hathras gangrape under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This is no way for a responsible and a mature democracy to function. Intimidating the press using enforcement agencies and lodging FIRs, often in ways that push the boundaries of legality needs to stop.             

The news media that DigiPub represents will not be intimidated and prevented from reporting the truth, however inconvenient it may be for anyone. We take our accountability as the fourth pillar of democracy very seriously and conduct ourselves in the most responsible fashion. We hope the governments around the country and in this case especially Uttar Pradesh, can do the same. DigiPub stands by the journalists named in the FIR and intend to challenge this bullying without compromise.”

Related: 

Uttar Pradesh: Where women live in fear

Unnao: Dalit girls found tied up in fields; 2 dead, 1 critical

113 hours raiding multiple locations, it is still not clear why the ED is investigations Newsclick

SC grants 5 days interim bail for Siddique Kappan to meet his ailing mother

 

Unnao reports: Twitter handles of Barkha Dutt's portal, 7 others booked 

Others accused are, Janjagran Live, Aazad Samaj Party spokesperson Suraj Kumar Boudh, Nilim Dutta, Vijay Ambedkar, Abhay Kumar Azad, Rahul Diwakar, Nawab Satpal Tanwar

barkha

A first information report IFIR) was lodged against eight Twitter handles for “allegedly propagating fake news in connection with the death of two girls in Unnao last week,” news portal Rediff report quoted the area police said on Monday. 

The Twitter handles include news portal 'Mojo Story', founded by senior journalist Barkha Dutt, Janjagran Live, Aazad Samaj Party spokesperson Suraj Kumar Boudh, Nilim Dutta, Vijay Ambedkar, Abhay Kumar Azad, Rahul Diwakar, Nawab Satpal Tanwar. The case was registered at the Sadar Kotwali police station area in Unnao on Sunday, and came to light soon enough. According to news reports, the FIR has been lodged for propagating 'fake and misleading news' regarding the incident, reported Rediff, quoting Assistant Superintendent of Police Vinod Kumar Pandey.

Barkha Dutt issued a public statement on Monday in reaction to the FIRs against her team for reporting Unnao murders: “We've followed journalistic principles by reporting all sides of an evolving story. To use IPC sections that are punishable with prison is pure intimidation. I am very ready to fight it and face it in court.” She updated this to add: “just when you thought it couldn't get any more shocking the Unnao Police has refused to even give us a copy of the FIR in total violation of my legal rights, and without which we cannot appeal for judicial intervention. Brazen Harassment and bullying…” Dutt has said she found it “even more suspicious is how Unnao Police has clubbed us with a bunch of politicians. The police claim the FIR against us (upto 1 year in prison) is for mentioning sexual assault, which we NEVER did. Before fact checking @themojostory the UP Police needs to fact check its FIR”

 

 

On February 17, late evening, news came in from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, that three Dalit girls were found with their hands and legs tied in the field. While two of them were found dead, the third one was taken to the District hospital and is undergoing treatment. The incident occurred in Babura village, Asoha police station area. The family members said that the girls had gone to the fields in the afternoon to fetch fodder for the cattle and did not return until late evening. Then they went looking for them in the fields and found them tied up. The doctor went on record to say that the one girl who was brought to the hospital was gasping for breath and there were indications that she was poisoned.  The District Magistrate reached the hospital to assess the situation and senior cops including IG and DIG Lucknow range reached the spot after being alerted. "The three girls were found in an unconscious state in their own field. Of them, two have died while one has been referred to the district hospital for treatment. Initial investigations suggest it is a case of poisoning. Statements of people are being recorded and the case is being investigated," Superintendent of Police Unnao had said.

The last rites of the deceased girls were performed on Friday morning amid tight security arrangements. According to later news reports Unnao Police arrestedtwo people in this connection, “accusing them of murder over one-sided love”.

However, according to Rediff, on Saturday, Congress leader Udit Raj was booked for allegedly “propagating fake news in a tweet that the teenagers were raped and their bodies cremated against the will of their family.”

The Uttar Pradesh Police has claimed that Barkha Dutt’s newspotral Mojo Story had ‘wrongly reported that the police had rushed to perform the last rites of the two deceased girls despite objections from the girls’ families’. However, Mojo Story has denied this allegation and maintains that their report was based on the girls’ families’ statements. The NewsMinute reported that FIR that was registered under Section 153 of the IPC (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 66 of the Information and Technology Act, and claimed that false information was spread by the named journalists. 

DigiPub, a collective of digital media organisations, has condemned the FIR filed against journalist Barkha Dutt amongst others for their coverage of the alleged poisoning for three Dalit teenage girls. 

The DIGIPUB statement reads as follows:

“What is most outrageous is that the FIR by Unnao police is a clear and deliberate attempt at muzzling journalists and keeping them from doing their jobs. Not only this, Unnao SP Anand Kulkarni also threatened further action. Mojo Story in their tweet, denied these claims and cleared their stand on the news saying that inputs were given by a local reporter followed by a report by a Delhi correspondent. To challenge the claims, they asked for a copy of FIR which was refused by Unnao Police without which Mojo Story cannot appeal for a legal intervention.

Mojo Story has been penalised for reporting what the families of the Dalit girls told their reporter, that the police had been in favour of an early cremation but the families insisted otherwise. The police denial on this was also reported. The platform has also called out the police for clubbing them with politicians who had suggested falsely that the girls had been raped. The news platform has said it has not reported anything of the kind.

This is not the first time such attempts have been made to stop journalists from reporting, but it has become a pattern which needs to be addressed immediately by the government of Uttar Pradesh and the center needs to take a note. In this case, the sections used by the UP police allow for jail upto a year. Recently, UP police arrested Siddiqui Kappan for reporting on Hathras gangrape under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This is no way for a responsible and a mature democracy to function. Intimidating the press using enforcement agencies and lodging FIRs, often in ways that push the boundaries of legality needs to stop.             

The news media that DigiPub represents will not be intimidated and prevented from reporting the truth, however inconvenient it may be for anyone. We take our accountability as the fourth pillar of democracy very seriously and conduct ourselves in the most responsible fashion. We hope the governments around the country and in this case especially Uttar Pradesh, can do the same. DigiPub stands by the journalists named in the FIR and intend to challenge this bullying without compromise.”

Related: 

Uttar Pradesh: Where women live in fear

Unnao: Dalit girls found tied up in fields; 2 dead, 1 critical

113 hours raiding multiple locations, it is still not clear why the ED is investigations Newsclick

SC grants 5 days interim bail for Siddique Kappan to meet his ailing mother

 

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Allahabad HC has not ordered evictions of Surma villagers of Dudhwa Forest

TOI mis-reports a court order that said, if the dwellers are indulging in illegal acts, appropriate authority must take action; headline misleads readers

22 Feb 2021

Allahabad HC

According to a Times of India report, the Allahabad High Court, through its 2019 order, has directed for the eviction of forest dwellers of Surma Village from Dudhwa core area. The headline reads: “Evict forest dwellers of Surma village from Dudhwa core area”.

But SabrangIndia accessed the High Court order referred to in the story which clearly indicates that the Bench directed the appropriate authority to take legal action if the allegations made by the petitioner were true and the villagers were indulging in illegal activities and other welfare crimes.

The Division Bench of Justices Sudhir Agarwal and Virendra Kumar heard the petitioner who stated that the villagers have been residing in Surma “since time immemorial”, indulging in illegal activities and hence must be evicted. Admitting the submission, the Bench said, “In our view, these aspects require investigation, therefore, petitioner has to approach competent authority by giving all the relevant facts regarding his complaint and if such a complaint is made, competent authority shall look into the matter or pass a reasoned order within two months from the date of receipt of such complaint, and if it finds like some activities, which are not permissible in the law, is being carried out by the notified forest dwellers, appropriate action in accordance with law be taken”.

TOI further reported that a Lucknow based petitioner, Kaushalendra Singh had approached the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), Field Director of Dudhwa National Park, District Magistrate of Kheri with a representation to start eviction of dwellers of village Surma from the core forest area of the National Park.

The eviction representation has been made since the forest dwellers are allegedly indulging in poaching, illegal felling of trees and other wildlife crime in the forest. According to a report in TOI, the petitioner said that under section 35 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the forest area under North Kheri Forest Division had been notified by the Government as a critical tiger habitat in 1977.

Since the forest laws did not permit the villagers to reside in the core forest areas, the State Government had decided to relocate both villages of Mora and Surma outside the core areas. The petitioner also apprised TOI that the residents of Mora willingly shifted to the land allotted by the government but Surma village decided to approach the High Court, where they lost in 2003, and were ordered to relocate to the government designated site.

But this order was not followed by the government officials and Surma was declared a revenue village in 2006 after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was introduced. This led to Surma coming under the revenue department instead of the forest department so that civic facilities could reach these areas.

The petitioner told TOI, “Although FRA had subsumed provisions for constituting district and state level committees to review authenticity of rights of the forest dwellers, no such committee was set up in Kheri and the district administration continued to provide development package to Surma Village”.

In lieu of this, another writ petition was filed before the Allahabad High Court (Tiger and Terrain vs Government of India and Ors) in 2011, where the court directed the petitioner to approach the competent authority that can take appropriate action in case of illegal activities by the villagers.

The order may be read here: 

 

Related:

Will increased vigilance in Bengal forests, adversely impact forest dwellers?

Gujarat HC upset with state's poor  track record on protecting forest rights

 

Allahabad HC has not ordered evictions of Surma villagers of Dudhwa Forest

TOI mis-reports a court order that said, if the dwellers are indulging in illegal acts, appropriate authority must take action; headline misleads readers

Allahabad HC

According to a Times of India report, the Allahabad High Court, through its 2019 order, has directed for the eviction of forest dwellers of Surma Village from Dudhwa core area. The headline reads: “Evict forest dwellers of Surma village from Dudhwa core area”.

But SabrangIndia accessed the High Court order referred to in the story which clearly indicates that the Bench directed the appropriate authority to take legal action if the allegations made by the petitioner were true and the villagers were indulging in illegal activities and other welfare crimes.

The Division Bench of Justices Sudhir Agarwal and Virendra Kumar heard the petitioner who stated that the villagers have been residing in Surma “since time immemorial”, indulging in illegal activities and hence must be evicted. Admitting the submission, the Bench said, “In our view, these aspects require investigation, therefore, petitioner has to approach competent authority by giving all the relevant facts regarding his complaint and if such a complaint is made, competent authority shall look into the matter or pass a reasoned order within two months from the date of receipt of such complaint, and if it finds like some activities, which are not permissible in the law, is being carried out by the notified forest dwellers, appropriate action in accordance with law be taken”.

TOI further reported that a Lucknow based petitioner, Kaushalendra Singh had approached the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), Field Director of Dudhwa National Park, District Magistrate of Kheri with a representation to start eviction of dwellers of village Surma from the core forest area of the National Park.

The eviction representation has been made since the forest dwellers are allegedly indulging in poaching, illegal felling of trees and other wildlife crime in the forest. According to a report in TOI, the petitioner said that under section 35 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the forest area under North Kheri Forest Division had been notified by the Government as a critical tiger habitat in 1977.

Since the forest laws did not permit the villagers to reside in the core forest areas, the State Government had decided to relocate both villages of Mora and Surma outside the core areas. The petitioner also apprised TOI that the residents of Mora willingly shifted to the land allotted by the government but Surma village decided to approach the High Court, where they lost in 2003, and were ordered to relocate to the government designated site.

But this order was not followed by the government officials and Surma was declared a revenue village in 2006 after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was introduced. This led to Surma coming under the revenue department instead of the forest department so that civic facilities could reach these areas.

The petitioner told TOI, “Although FRA had subsumed provisions for constituting district and state level committees to review authenticity of rights of the forest dwellers, no such committee was set up in Kheri and the district administration continued to provide development package to Surma Village”.

In lieu of this, another writ petition was filed before the Allahabad High Court (Tiger and Terrain vs Government of India and Ors) in 2011, where the court directed the petitioner to approach the competent authority that can take appropriate action in case of illegal activities by the villagers.

The order may be read here: 

 

Related:

Will increased vigilance in Bengal forests, adversely impact forest dwellers?

Gujarat HC upset with state's poor  track record on protecting forest rights

 

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