Freedom of Expression: Jagan passes controversial GO to penalise any person opposing Govt

In a controversial move, the Andhra Pradesh government has reportedly empowered departmental secretaries to take legal action against media outlets and sue them for defamation, if they carried ‘baseless’ reports with ‘malafide' intention.

The state cabinet is said to have accepted the proposal presented by the Information & Public Relations (I&PR) Minister Perni Venkatramaiah. The state government is planning to do so, by citing a Government Order (GO) dated 2007, which empowers the Special Commissioner of the I&PR department to file cases under the law in case of 'baseless' media reports.

The state may now extend that same power to all secretary-rank officials. “Certain print, electronic and social media are deliberately trying to tarnish the image of the government and its officials by spreading false news with malafide interest… Now, it is felt that the departmental secretaries, with thorough knowledge of the affairs about the department and having the wherewithal to judge whether the news is true or false, after conducting thorough inquiry, should be empowered to file appropriate cases against defamatory content appearing in print, electronic and social media,” the memorandum is said to have stated.

“Now, the cabinet decided to empower the departmental secretaries to file defamation cases against the media. They can take legal action within 24 hours against the organisation responsible for the news item after ascertaining the veracity of such stories,” an official familiar with the development was quoted as saying. 

The state government, under Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, is also presently embroiled in a legal battle with media outlets TV5 and ABN Andhra Jyothi over an “unofficial ban”. 

Meanwhile, TV5 has approached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to restore their services after they claimed that an unofficial ban was sanctioned against them for airing news that showed the government in poor light. In September, the Tribunal ordered cable operators in Andhra Pradesh to restore the TV5 news channel on their networks.

Photo Gallery