Misuse of Section 66A of the IT Act

The following is the press statement issued by the Delhi Union of Journalists on January 22:

THE Delhi Union of Journalists expresses its disappointment at the NDA government’s stance on the issue of revising the draconian Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The Section, which provides for upto three years’ imprisonment for sending ‘offensive’ or ‘annoying’ messages on the Internet has been challenged by civil society activists through several PILs in the Supreme Court. The government, which many had hoped would take a stand different from the UPA, has taken the same conservative position in its affidavits to the Supreme Court.

Section 66A has been repeatedly misused in recent years to arbitrarily arrest citizens for expressing opinions and/or sharing cartoons that are relatively inoffensive. Last year two young women were arrested in Maharashtra for an innocuous Facebook post. Such legal provisions that can be abused to settle narrow political scores should have no place in the statute books. The Delhi Union of Journalists urges the government to rethink its position on the IT Act. DUJ firmly believes that the freedom of speech and expression is a primary necessity for any democracy and any laws that infringe upon it must be immediately amended.

The DUJ regrets that the space for democratic discourse seems to be shrinking, with increasing attacks on writers, journalists and other citizens. The silencing of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan is the most recent example of growing intolerance. It is the duty of the government to uphold the right to free speech and equally to curb hate speech, within the provisions of fair and just laws.

The DUJ also condemns the reported pulling up of reporters who have as per the version of the management shown bias towards a particular political party.

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