The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has stated that Andhra Pradesh government’s order empowering departmental secretaries to institute defamation cases against the media for publication of “false, baseless and defamatory” news items will have a “chilling effect on the media” and urged the state government to revisit it.
In an order on October 30, the Andhra government gave secretaries of government departments permission to initiate legal action on publication of false, baseless and defamatory news items against the print media through the public prosecutor.
In a statement on Monday, the INS said, “While it is the right of the government to seek redress for wrong or defamatory reportage, giving the bureaucracy such sweeping powers will have a chilling effect on the media and vitiate the atmosphere in which the Press should function in a vibrant democracy.”
The INS asked the government to take a relook at the order “so that the rights of the Press are not circumscribed, and the media is able to perform its tasks fearlessly”.
Last week, the Press Council too expressed concern on the issue. The move has also drawn criticism from the Opposition in the state. TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu said in a series of tweets on the day the order was passed that “the right to question, criticise and showcase the failures of a govt is fundamental to democracy”.