Bengaluru: The Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh has empowered every department of the administration to sue media organisations for spreading “fake news” by print, electronic or social media.
Andhra Pradesh Information and Public Relations (I&PR) Minister Perni Venkataramaiah had submitted a proposal to this effect to the state cabinet, calling for department secretaries to be empowered to sue fake news purveyors after they verify the piece of news in question. The decision was approved at a cabinet meeting Wednesday.
“Certain print, electronic and social media are deliberately trying to tarnish the image of the government and government officials by spreading false news with malafide interest,” Venkataramaiah had said in his submission.
The decision tweaks a rule brought by Jagan’s father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the late chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh, in 2007. In the government order issued 12 years ago, the power of filing cases was vested with the special commissioner in the Information and Public Relations (I&PR) department.
“The cabinet decision that was taken on 16 October was decentralisation of power and delegating the same powers to secretaries of the respective departments instead of being vested solely with the commissioner I&PR,” the government said in a press release.
“The decision was taken as secretaries are better placed in monitoring the news, picking up the distortions, giving rejoinders and taking it to the logical conclusion,” it added.
This move follows allegations made by Jagan’s YSR Congress Party that “certain” media houses and members of rival Telugu Desam Party (TDP) have been posting objectionable social media posts targeting the party chief and his family.
On 1 October, three MLAs of the party also filed a police complaint against “false propaganda”.
Last month, two Telugu media houses, ABN Andhra Jyoti and TV5, went off air in many places after they were put under an “unwritten ban” — which included a bar on covering government press meets — for allegedly carrying anti-government stories.
The channels subsequently approached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which revoked the ban.
This is an updated version of the report