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Andhra Pradesh Govt Defends Gag Order on Media Over 'False, Baseless and Defamatory' News

Minister for Information and Public Relations Perni Venkataramaiah said the government order was not wrong and not aimed at muzzling the freedom of the press.

Syed Ahmed | News18

Updated:November 1, 2019, 10:09 PM IST
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Andhra Pradesh Govt Defends Gag Order on Media Over 'False, Baseless and Defamatory' News
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy during the cabinet meeting on Wednesday. (News18)

Amaravati: The Andhra Pradesh government on Friday defended its recent gag order on false, baseless and defamatory media coverage in the state and its intention to sue those publishing such news.

Minister for Information and Public Relations Perni Venkataramaiah said only the central government has the right to implement a law to control the press but nowhere has any state government enacted such laws — whether it is to give a licence to a newspaper or a television channel, it is in the central government's domain.

Venkataramaiah said according to Article 19 of the Constitution, there was no threat to freedom of press and in the dissemination of information to the people by the government. The order issued by the state government on October 30 states that if any section of the press makes baseless statements against a department in the government, the department head has to give a factual rejoinder. The newspaper or the television channel has to disclose the rejoinder to the people.

In case the newspaper or the channel fails to disclose the rejoinder, the government would issue a legal notice and go to the court on the issue, he said.

The minister said the order was not wrong and the government was not muzzling the freedom of the press. What the government wants is that the media should have proof when it is making allegations, which should not be baseless, he added.

Minister for Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Kodali Nani said the order was not issued to muzzle the freedom of the press but only to issue notice to caste-based media barons who were disseminating untruths about the government at the behest of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) N Chandrababu Naidu.

Andhra Pradesh Public Policy Adviser K Ramachandra Murthy also defended the government's move, saying, "It is inappropriate to criticise the government order that was issued under constitutional provisions. Any person, company, or government can resort to court in case of any injustice occur," he said.

Murthy cited instances of US President Donald Trump's recent action against newspapers allegedly writing false stories about him.

"It is inappropriate to deliberately go against the government. In case of any mistake in the relevant newspaper, it is the concerned department official’s responsibility to seek a clarification from that newspaper and publish the relevant rebuttal," he added.

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