The National Alliance of Journalists strongly condemns the intimidatory tactics used against Twitter India by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. On the evening of 24.03.2021 police teams reached Twitter offices in Delhi and Gurgaon, ostensibly to serve a notice regarding a complaint filed by the Congress party against leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Ironically, with lockdowns enforced in both places, the offices were found closed. Twitter staff has been working from home for some time now. However, the Police had tipped off TV channels and the ‘raids’ were well publicised, sending a message to Twitter that the government means business now.
In a joint statement today NAJ President S.K.Pande, DUJ General Secretary Sujata Madhok , NAJ Secretary General N. Kondaiah and APWJF General Secretary G. Anjaneyulu stated that: “ It is ironic that a social media platform which many have called partisan and aligned with the ruling party should lately be at the receiving end of the government’s displeasure. In recent months Twitter officials have refused to comply with government demands to take down certain accounts. In this latest controversy the government has directed Twitter to remove the tag of ‘manipulated media’ on some posts by BJP leaders. Twitter has not complied.”
Earlier, it may be recalled that this year the Union government notified the Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to control the digital news media, OTT platforms and social media companies. These rules demand that social media platforms must divulge to government agencies the originator of any post. The present police enquiry is an attempt to investigate who created the ‘toolkit’ that at least 11 prominent BJP leaders, including several ministers, shared on Twitter. They claimed it had been prepared by the Congress party to defame the government. The Congress alleges that it is a forged document and has filed a complaint with the police.
The NAJ reiterates its strong objections to the police action. If the intention was merely to serve a notice, this could have been done online, over email, not by sending large police teams to the offices of Twitter. We view this as one more attack on the freedom of expression in India today.