New Delhi: Four days after popular political cartoonist Manjul received a notice from Twitter stating that Indian authorities had instructed it to take action against his page, he was suspended with “immediate effect” from Network 18 on June 8, The Wire has learned.
He had been working with Network 18 on a contract basis for the past six years.
Sources at Network 18 said that there was no indication that he would be suspended and the sudden move has taken them by surprise. Network18 is owned by Reliance Industries Limited, headed by Mukesh Ambani.
On June 4, Manjul had shared an email which he received from Twitter on his profile, @MANJULtoons. The email stated that authorities in India had believed that the content associated with his Twitter account @MANJULtoons “violates the law(s) of India”. Twitter said it had been asked by “Indian law enforcement” to initiate action against Manjul’s account.
Sharing the email on his profile, Manjul had captioned it with “Jai ho Modi Ji ki sarkar ki!” (All hail the Modi government). He had also said it would have been better if the government mentioned which tweet of his had created a problem.
Further, the email had stated that it was merely notifying the user regarding the request from the government agency and was not initiating any action. However, it recommended that the cartoonist could take legal action against the Indian government, contact civil society organisations for redressal, voluntarily delete the content (if applicable) or find any other resolution.
It was in this context, he was suspended from Network 18 on June 8, four days after he posted Twitter’s email.
Several leaders had slammed Modi’s government, calling it a ‘dictatorship’ in response to the notice issued by Twitter to Manjul.
The cartoonist had previously posted several illustrations criticising the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, exposing the grim reality of the devastating second wave of the pandemic. In his work, he also pointed out that people were rendered helpless because they lacked access to healthcare.