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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Manipur police instructs all districts to set up ‘social media cell’ to monitor ‘unlawful content’

The cell is to “continuously monitor all posts/uploads/comments posted in all dialects of Manipur” and submit a fortnightly report on the findings.

Written by Jimmy Leivon | Imphal |
July 20, 2021 7:52:46 pm
Manipur police, Manipur police social media cell, Manipur arrests over social media content, n biren singh, Kishorechandra Wangkhem, Erendro Leichombam, indian express, manipur newsSeveral people have recently landed in trouble with the law in Manipur for criticising the Biren Singh-led government on social media.

The Manipur Police has instructed all districts to set up a “social media cell” to monitor posts on various social media platforms, for any “unlawful content” that could have “detrimental effects on law and order”.

In a departmental message issued on July 15 and dispatched to all the district Superintendents of Police (SP), the Additional DGP Manipur (Intelligence) asked members to “continuously monitor all posts/uploads/comments posted in all dialects of Manipur” and submit a fortnightly report on the findings to him. The members are to bring to the notice of the ADGP all “unlawful contents, communal posts, etc.” circulating on various social media platforms.

It is learnt that the Manipur Police set up its social media cell following an order of the Director General of Police, Manipur in 2020. As per the order, the additional DGP (intelligence), Manipur would head the cell, with all the district SPs, including SP CID, as members. Despite several attempts, the ADGP (Intelligence) could not be reached for comment.

According to the circular issued on July 15, the ADGP instructed all the district SPs to establish social media monitoring cells in their respective units “immediately” if they had not earlier, and that “prompt legal action should be taken whenever required.”

The circular also asked the officials to take technical help from the Cyber Crime Police station, if required. The SPs have been asked to submit a fortnightly report on the findings and action taken to the ADGP on 3rd and 18th of every month, with effect from the 2nd fortnight of July.

While the motive behind the monitoring remains unclear, a senior police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he saw “no harm in setting up a mechanism to check irresponsible activities.” “The surveillance can help prevent people with vested interests from creating unwanted tension with their irresponsible posts or comments on social media,” the official said.

Babloo Loitongbam, an Imphal-based rights activist and executive director of Human Rights Alert (HRA), termed the step as “very intrusive.”

Referring to the recent release of jailed political activist Erendro Leichombam, ordered by the Supreme Court, Loitongbam said that the police “should review its decision to avoid putting itself in an awkward position.”

Erendro was detained in May under the National Security Act (NSA), allegedly over his comments on Facebook criticising claims that cow dung and cow urine are effective in preventing or treating Covid-19. On Monday, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said Erendro’s continued detention would amount to a violation of his fundamental rights.

Several people have landed in trouble with the law in Manipur for criticising the Biren Singh-led government on social media. Imphal-based journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem is currently in prison, booked under NSA in May along with Erendro, for his Facebook post on the death of state BJP chief retired professor S Tikendra Singh.

He was earlier in prison from December 2018 to April 2019 for alleged derogatory comments against the government and the Chief Minister, again on Facebook.

In April 2020, public criticism of the government’s handling of the Covid outbreak led at least two to be questioned for their Facebook posts. Both later apologised and deleted their posts.

In another incident, a 27-year-old private school teacher, Jotin Meitei Wakambam, and five others were arrested and booked for sedition, among other charges, after Wakambam in a Facebook post said he could not remember the name of his local MLA. They were released on bail after two days.

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