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Jagan Govt Empowers 'Department Secretaries' to Sue Media Houses for Filing 'False, Baseless' Reports

File photo of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy.

File photo of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy.

In a memorandum issued to the Cabinet on Thursday, the state government said that a 2007 government order grants powers to the Special Commissioner (I&PR) to pursue legal action, but now it seems necessary that it be given to various other department secretaries as well.

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh government has delegated powers to ‘Department Secretaries’ to sue media houses for false and baseless reports against the government.

Ideally, the Information and Public Relations Department in the state takes legal action against media reports considered "defamatory". But as per the new rule, all the department secretaries will have the power to directly file a court case.

In a memorandum issued to the Cabinet on Thursday, the state government has said that a 2007 government order grants powers to the Special Commissioner (I&PR) to pursue legal action, but now it seems necessary that the power be given to various other department secretaries as well.

“Departments, with thorough knowledge about the internal affairs and having wherewithal to judge whether the news is true or false after conducting thorough inquiry, should be empowered to file cases against defamatory content,” the memorandum read.

The government said it believes that a section of media, including social media, is deliberately trying to tarnish its image by spreading false news with "malafide" interest.

“There’s nothing new in this. Earlier, only the I&PR Commissioner had the power to take legal action, but now the work has been diluted. Every department can verify if the report is accurate or not and can then file a court case,” an official familiar with the matter told News18.

According to the government led by Jagan Mohan Reddy, such unauthentic reports about the state would lead to "sub-optimal" performance of any department and can "hamper" the progress of the state.

The departments have been given full powers to take legal action within 24 hours after conducting an inquiry into a report that has been published.

Reddy had recently come under the scanner after the Editors' Guild of India asked the state government to clarify if it was responsible for any "unofficial ban" imposed on two Telugu television channels TV5 and ABN Andhra Jyothi. The channels, reportedly, went off-air in many places in the state.