Departmental secretaries can sue media houses in AP

Jaganmohan Reddy

The Y S Jaganmohan Reddy government has decided to delegate powers to departmental secretaries to take legal action on defamatory news spread with malafide interest by media houses.

The state cabinet that met here on Wednesday, is learnt to have given green signal to a proposal mooted by information and public relations (I&PR) minister Perni Venkataramaiah.

Earlier, the power to file cases lay with the special commissioner to information and public relations department. The present cabinet decision reverses the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government’s 2007 order vesting the powers with the information and Public Relations special commissioner.

Sources said that the cabinet today agreed with the minister’s view that “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”.

The proposal adopted in the cabinet says, “Now it is felt that departmental secretaries with thorough knowledge of the affairs about the department and having wherewithal to judge whether the news is true of false after conducting thorough enquiry, should be empowered to file appropriate cases against defamatory content appearing in print, electronic and social media”.

The secretaries were empowered to take legal action within 24 hours against the organization responsible for the news item, after due enquiry, if needed.

The cabinet decision came at a time the government imposed an unwritten ban on two Telugu news channels. Apart from Editors Guild condemning the ban, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), On October 1, ordered the AP State Fibernet Limited (APFSL) to immediately restore airing the channels in regular frequencies.

It also imposed Rs 5 lakh fine on the AP Fibernet Ltd for blocking out the two channels since 13 September.

In yet another punitive move, the cabinet also decided to take back 1.5 acres of land given to a vernacular media house in Visakhapatnam.               

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