AP Government Issues Order to Take Legal Action Against 'False News'

The controversial order grants the information minister and the secretaries of departments the power to issue rejoinders, file complaints and lodge cases against 'defamatory news'.

Amaravati: The Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday issued an order for taking legal action against “false, baseless and defamatory news”, restoring a controversial government order (GO) kept in abeyance during his late father’s regime 12 years ago.

While the 2007 order issued during late Rajasekhara Reddy’s tenure as chief minister was limited to print and electronic media, Wednesday’s GO made social media posts also liable for legal action.

The old order delegated the power to the special commissioner in the information and public relations (I&PR) department for filing defamation cases against publishers and editors, but the latest order empowered the secretaries of the respective departments as well to proceed legally and initiate action following the due process of law.

On October 16, the state cabinet had given its nod to revive the GO (No.938) issued on February 20, 2007.

The latest GO says, “Instances have come to the notice of the government that certain print, electronic and social media are deliberately trying to tarnish the image of government and government officials by spreading false, baseless and defamatory news with malafide interest.”

Also Read: In Jagan’s Andhra Pradesh, Media and Journalists In Line of Fire

“The government hereby accords permission to delegate powers to the secretaries of respective departments to issue rejoinders, file complaints and lodge appropriate cases, if need be, through public prosecutor against defamatory news items published/telecast/posted in print/electronic/social media pertaining to their respective departments after following due process of law,” the order said.

Justifying the cabinet decision, information minister Perni Venkataramaiah had on October 16 said adverse news would bring down the morale of the implementing agency, department and officer, which ultimately would lead to sub-optimal performance and can hamper the progress of the state.

Opposition parties and media associations have strongly opposed the move to revive the controversial GO.