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'Register WhatsApp Groups or Face Action': UP District Admin's 'Gag Order' for Journalists

Journalists in Uttar Pradesh's Lalitpur district have been ordered to register their WhatsApp groups with state’s information department, which is headed by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath himself. Those who fail to comply would face legal action under the IT Act.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:August 31, 2018, 10:43 AM IST
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Lucknow: In an attempt to muzzle the media, the district administration of Uttar Pradesh's Lalitpur has asked journalists to furnish details of their WhatsApp groups.

Journalists in the district have been ordered to register their WhatsApp groups with the state’s information department, which is headed by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath himself. The order, a copy of which is with News18, says that those who fail to comply would face legal action under the IT Act.

“Journalists in the district, who want to use or are using WhatAapp groups need to disclose them to the district information officer's office. Admin of any such group has to furnish detail of all the members of the group. He/she needs to submit copy of his Aadhaar card and photographs among necessary documents,” reads the order jointly issued by DM Manvendra Singh and Lalitpur superintendent of police O P Singh on August 25.

Though the orders are confined to one district as of now, the diktat has miffed scribes across the state.

The journalists are now speculating if the directive could be issued in other districts as well or if the government itself could enforce it in the state.

Claiming that the order was 'purely local', Avneesh Awasthi, principal secretary information of Uttar Pradesh, said, “There is no such order from the government or the department of information. If any such order has been issued by Lalitpur district magistrate, then it is purely at the local level. The state government is looking into the matter,” said .

Meanwhile, the district administration claims that the order has been issued in the ‘right earnest’.

“The move has been appreciated by most of the people. It should only be seen as an attempt to check fake news and curb anti-social elements indulging in rumour mongering in the garb of journalists,” said district magistrate Manvendra Singh.

The diktat has drawn sharp reaction from local media professionals, many of whom have already closed their WhatsApp groups.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the order, K Vishvadeo rao, national convener of social media cell of Indian federation of working journalist (IFWJ), said, “If fake news is the concern, administration should crack on those who are spreading rumours and not the scribes. Asking journalists to register their messaging app groups with government’s information department is clearly an attempt to bring independent media under government control.”

Lucknow-based journalist rights activist Mudit Mathur said, “Any such order is a clear attempt to muzzle our right to expression. It's therefore unconstitutional. No government has right to issue such orders.”

| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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