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Opposition Parties Fume over Andhra Pradesh's Govt Order to Sue Media over 'Defamatory' Reports

The Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday has issued an order to sue media organisations over ‘baseless, false and defamatory news’ in print, electronic and social media.

Medabayani Balakrishna | News18

Updated:October 31, 2019, 1:09 PM IST
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Opposition Parties Fume over Andhra Pradesh's Govt Order to Sue Media over 'Defamatory' Reports
File photo of Andhra CM Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Hyderabad: After Andhra Pradesh government passed a controversial order authorising bureaucrats to sue media houses for defamatory comments and false reports, opposition parties have attacked the Jagan Mohan government over gagging media freedom in the state.

The government on Wednesday has issued an order to sue media organisations over ‘baseless, false and defamatory news’ in print, electronic and social media.

"Government hereby accord permission to delegate powers to the secretaries of respective departments to issue rejoinders, file complaints and lodge appropriate cases, if need be, through public prosecutor against defamatory news items published/telecast/posted in print/electronic/social media pertaining to their respective departments after following due process of law," a statement issued by T Vijay Kumar Reddy, ex-officio secretary to the government, Information and Public Relations Department.

Reacting to the move, former CM and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu called it draconian.

Janasena Party Chief Pawan Kalyan said it was a move to disrupt the spirit of democracy. “Media is one of the pillars of democracy. We condemn this act of tying up the dreams and voices of those who question the anti-public decisions and policies. This order must be immediately revoked” Kalyan said.

However, retired IAS officer and Andhra Pradesh’s Former Chief Secretary hailed it as a good decision. “There is no need to be afraid of cases when it is evidence-based news. This is the kind of opportunity that bureaucrats want when in government. I have implemented it while in TDP government”, IYR Krishna Rao told News18.

“This kind of government order cannot dampen the spirit of journalism. The govt should roll back it immediately. What to publish or what should be stopped is the editor’s call not of an IAS officer. This kind of threatening won’t work with journalists.” Lokesh Paila, APJF state executive committee member told News18.

The government has said that filing of cases will be the last resort. It added that the process will start with issuing a rejoinder, ensuing that the correction is given the same prominence as the wrongly published/televised news was given, including the placement/time slot and has full clarity besides being properly sourced.

YSR Congress Party leader Kammela Sridhar said that it wasn’t the first time that the government came up with the order. “When YS Rajashekar Reddy was CM he also issued the same government order. Our intention is not to control media, but to control false news and baseless stories,” said YCRC leader.

The Jagan Mohan Reddy government, which came under attack for suppressing freedom of the press, claimed it is committed to upholding democratic norms. It believes that there is an imperative need for the flow of news about various government departments in an accurate manner "without any distortion, slant or prejudice.

The clarification, however, failed to allay the apprehensions among the journalist community that the powers will be misused to target the media houses, especially those critical of the government or the ruling party.

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