BBC Punjabi News Twitter Account Back Up, Govt Did Not Seek Action

It appears that the handle was reported en masse by Twitter users, which resulted in the suspension.

New Delhi: The Twitter account of BBC Punjabi news was withheld for over six hours on Tuesday, March 28, in India.

On Tuesday morning, a message saying “@bbcnewspunjabi‘s account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand” showed up on the page. The handle was back up at 3 pm, after having been down since 8:30 am, when Twitter told the BBC’s Punjabi service that their handle had been pulled down.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) is said to have conveyed to the BBC that it had not issued any instruction to block BBC Punjabi’s handle. The government communicated the BBC’s grievance to Twitter too, a source told The Wire. It appears that the handle was reported en masse by Twitter users, which resulted in the suspension. Twitter not having an India office now has not helped matters with such grievances and complaints, said those close to events as they unfolded.

Since the Punjab Police launched a manhunt for Singh, several social media accounts of journalists and news portals have been suspended. There is no word on exactly how many accounts have been withheld. Those accounts blocked included that of journalists, lawyers, and rights activists.

Social media accounts of at least three prominent journalists, those of Kamaldeep Singh Brar, a senior staffer with the Indian Express in Amritsar, and independent journalists Gagandeep Singh and Sandeep Singh, have also been suspended.

The Twitter handle of the news website Baaz News has also been withheld. The account of Sangrur MP, Simranjit Mann has been withheld by Twitter. The withholding of Mann’s account is significant given that action against a member of parliament is rare. The account of Canadian lawmaker, Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party, has also been withheld and is not available for viewing in India.

Not only residents of Punjab but the social media platforms of lawmakers, journalists and news organisations based in Canada – where the Sikh diaspora is influential – have also been targeted over the past week.

The suspension of accounts of rights activists, journalists, and lawyers has come under severe criticism.

Note: This article was originally published at 10:45 am on March 28, 2023 and republished at 9:30 pm on the same day, when it emerged that MeitY did not seek any action against BBC Punjabi’s Twitter handle.