Friday, Jul 01, 2022
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Press(ure) Tactics

Vague definitions open to interpretation spell bad news for contrary reporting

Press(ure) Tactics
illustration by Jayachandran
Press(ure) Tactics
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Although there is no specific reference to journalists, Section 3(8) of the ordinance makes it mandatory for "all persons to disclose information which the person knows or believes to be of material assistance in preventing any terrorist activity". While lawyers have been excluded on account of their special client-attorney relationship, a similar provision is not guaranteed for the journalist-source equation. Says N. Ram, editor, Frontline: "This is a notorious clause. Unlike TADA, the new law targets journalist sources. Section 3(8) of POTO is very mischievous. It can be misused by all kinds of police officials." Adds veteran journalist and Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar: "Journalists will have to be on guard because you never know which of your writings which will be interpreted as helping terrorists."

The new ordinance has already created a fear psychosis among mediapersons, particularly those covering the underworld, Northeast and Kashmir. Says a senior Mumbai journalist: "Virtually any journalist who has spoken to an underworld contact could be treated as a suspect. The police needs to differentiate between those who have underworld links and those who merely gather news to get a non-police point of view."

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