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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 15, April 8, 2023

Arbitrary suspension of social media accounts of several journalists and media organisations | Statement by Editors Guild (April 3, 2023) in Punjab

Saturday 8 April 2023


The Editors Guild of India


3rd April, 2023

The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the arbitrary suspension of social media accounts of several journalists and media organisations in Punjab over the last few days. The official Twitter account of BBC Punjabi was withheld on March 27, though it was restored later in the day. Similarly, social media accounts of a senior staffer at the Indian Express as well as some other prominent journalists were also suspended. This has been part of the larger restrictions on internet services as well as orders of suspension of several social media accounts other than that of journalists, by the Government of Punjab since March 17th, as part of the man-hunt to arrest the radical preacher Amritpal Singh.

The Guild is concerned that in the suspension of all these social media handles, no due processes were followed and they were carried out against the principles of natural justice. In the judgment of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India had expressly laid down that all reasonable efforts must be made to identify and notify the people whose information is sought to be blocked before access is restricted, as well as a right to appeal. No such process seems to have been followed in any of these shutdowns.

Notwithstanding the fact that some of the accounts were later restored, or for that matter that many of the accounts suspended may not have been that of journalists or those associated with news organisations, the Guild is concerned that under the pretext of maintaining security, the state government’s arbitrary actions undermine press freedom.

We urge the state and central governments as well as the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), to act with restraint in all such cases, and base action if required on due diligence based on facts and in adherence to processes laid down by the Supreme Court of India. Currently, the widespread action against journalists and the larger media fraternity has created an atmosphere of fear in Punjab that is not conducive to free and fair journalism.

We also urge MeitY to release all the orders of suspension in the public domain, in the interest of transparency and the spirit of the law.

Thanks and regards,

Seema Mustafa, President

Anant Nath, General Secretary

Shriram Pawar, Treasurer

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