Delhi Government promotes defamation to gag media freedom12 May, 2015
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists India (NUJI) condemn a circular by the Delhi government that encourages defamation action against against critical news reports. The IFJ and NUJI have called this a dangerous move aimed at curbing press freedom and called for its immediate withdrawal.
In the controversial circular issued on May 6, the government in Delhi asked all its officials to ‘lodge a complaint if they came across any news item which damages the reputation of the chief minister or the government, so that further action can be taken.’
The circular, issued by the directorate of information and publicity department, states that if the government find the news item to be defamatory it will launch criminal defamation proceedings. The move came a few days after the Delhi government issued an order for close monitoring of all news channels.
The Delhi Journalists Association (DJA), an NUJ (India) affiliate, calls it a move to curb press freedom and expressed grave concern over the circular. It has demanded immediate withdrawal of the circular and warned of an agitation if not withdrawn.
The DJA said: “The Government is conspiring to damage the fourth pillar of democracy. When there is a statutorily constituted Press Council of India to deal with complaints regarding the published news items, the Delhi Government’s move to ignore this institution and threatened the press is unconstitutional, illegal and directly contradicts the oath taken by the members of the Delhi Cabinet including the Chief Minister, Mr Arvind Kejriwal.”
The IFJ demands the circular to be withdrawn immediately and calls on the Delhi government to respect press freedom enshrined in the constitution that allows for fair criticism and reporting of those in power.
The IFJ said: “This is a deeply concerning move by the Delhi government that disregards the established institutions for media complaints and is clearly set out to intimidate journalists and create an environment of self-censorship if journalists fear they will be directly targeted with legal action for their reporting.”