On Monday night, the ministry of information and broadcasting ordered Delhi-based news magazine, The Caravan, to take down a story detailing allegations of civilian abuse, torture and murder by the Indian army in Jammu under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. In a tweet on Tuesday, the magazine announced that it would challenge this order.
The order was issued in the interest of security of the state and public order, two of the six reasons under which such a blocking order can be issued. It was issued based on inputs from the Intelligence Bureau, the ministry of defence, and the Jammu and Kashmir police.
“Screams from the Army Post: The Indian Army’s torture and murder of civilians in a restive Jammu” by independent journalist Jatinder Kaur Tur was published on the magazine’s website on February 1 and is a part of series of articles in the magazine’s February issue on “The Military Under Modi”.
“This is to inform readers we have received an order from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting under Section 69A of the IT Act, directing us to take down this story in 24 hrs: [link to the story] The order’s content is confidential. We will be challenging this order,” the magazine tweeted on Tuesday.
Initially, the MIB issued a notice to the magazine on Friday evening. After this, an inter-departmental committee meeting was convened on Monday evening where an unidentified member of the magazine’s editorial team appeared without a lawyer.
In this meeting, the government officials said that the article had brought disrepute to the Indian army and the reporting in question showed Indian army in a bad light, two people aware of the proceedings told HT on the condition of anonymity owing to the confidential nature of these proceedings. In the meeting, it is understood that the government said that the article was based on “unsubstantiated reports” that alleged something against the Indian army.
After this IDC meeting, the MIB issued a blocking order, signed by I&B secretary Sanjay Jaju, under IT Rules, 2021 to take down the article, the video report based on the article published on YouTube, and at least nine other URLs promoting the article on different social media platforms.
“How can something like this be taken down? This is a factual report. We have followed the proper journalistic process — fact checked everything and given them a chance to respond. Everything was on the record. They have not pointed out any errors in the reporting. If we cannot report this, someone in the government who does not like out reportage will keep sending us such takedown notices,” Hartosh Singh Bal, executive editor of The Caravan, told HT.
Bal did not get into the specifics of the order, citing the confidential nature of the proceedings and the order itself. “This problem of confidentiality is absurd. It seems to suggest that the government cannot seem to justify the reasons on which it is taking such actions. If it is confident, it should put the reasons and orders out in the public and let people respond. What is the government trying to hide?” he said.
While the magazine is working on legally challenging MIB’s order, Bal told HT that until that happens, “we have no option but to take the article down because that is the timeline [24 hours] we have been given”.