PCI sends notice to Jagan govt after media gag order

The PCI has slapped a notice on the Chief Secretary and the Information and Public Relations Department Special Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh government, calling for a reply.

The Press Council of India (PCI) has taken up suo motu cognisance of the Andhra Pradesh government’s media gag order.

The PCI, in a statement issued in New Delhi, expressed concern over Government Order RT No. 2430, issued by the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government on October 30. The order is aimed at empowering individual department heads to sue the media houses for false, baseless and defamatory news stories. Earlier, the power was vested with the Information and Public Relations Special Secretary.

The PCI has slapped a notice on the Chief Secretary and the Information and Public Relations Department Special Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh government, calling for a reply.

“PCI chairman Chandramauli Kumar Prasad is of the view that the threat to prosecute media personnel, in general, shall demoralise journalists in large and this shall have severe bearing on the freedom of the press. Not only this, the problems which the order in question seek to redress can very well be remedied by the PCI itself,” the release said.

The controversial GO, which has attracted nationwide criticism, enables secretaries of respective departments to issue rejoinders and sue media houses, including social media, for false, baseless and defamatory stories and posts. Several journalists’ associations have denounced the GO and are protesting its implementation.

Meanwhile, in firefighting mode, the adviser on public policy, K Ramachandra Murthy, and national media adviser to the government, Devulapalli Amar, both noted journalists, defended the gag order.

In separate media conferences, they claimed that only the false, baseless and deliberate anti-establishment stories to malign the image of the government would be dealt with under the GO. However, Andhra Pradesh Poura Vedika (Civil Society) and Journalists United Forum questioned both advisers about their active role in 2007 when YS Rajasekhara Reddy issued a similar order.

Information and Public Relations Minister Perni Venkataramaiah, who has played an important role in drafting the order, says that only those who resort to mudslinging should panic as it was not aimed at those who report unbiased news.

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