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Media

Union Govt Uses IT Act to Attack Press Freedom, Asks The Caravan to Take Down Report

The magazine was told that if it fails to take down an article on the Poonch killings from its website within 24 hours, the entire website would be taken down. The Caravan has said it will be challenging the order.

New Delhi: In an instance of the controversial Information Technology Act – rules for which were amended in 2021 and then 2023 – being used against a media house, The Caravan magazine has been told to take down its article on allegations of torture and murder against the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

On X, The Caravan announced that it had received a notice under Section 69A of the IT Act, and would be challenging this order. “The order’s content is confidential,” the magazine said.

The magazine was told that if it fails to take down the article from its website within 24 hours, the entire website would be taken down. The article is also included in the print edition of the magazine which is sent to subscribers and sold at news stands.

The article, published in the February issue of the magazine and written by journalist Jatinder Kaur Tur, was an extensive report titled ‘Screams from the Army Post’. It centred around the killing of three civilians allegedly by unidentified soldiers on December 22, 2023 which had been widely reported in the media. Locals have held that the men were killed in army custody, and videos of them being tortured had gone viral. The Army has simply said that the matter is under investigation.

In its report, The Caravan spoke to the families of the men who were killed, including an instance where the army gave one of the families Rs 10 lakh without explanation after the deaths. The report also said that while three men had been killed, a much larger number – 25 – had been picked up by the Army and “severely tortured”. The report also names a brigadier who it says gave the orders for what happened.

The Caravan approached multiple authorities – in the police, Army and district administration – to ask for comments on what the reporter had found. None of these authorities responded to the magazine’s queries.

The controversial IT Rules give the information and broadcasting ministry emergency powers to summarily take down content from digital platforms, including news websites, without giving a hearing to the publisher. Several media houses and others, including The Wire, have challenged the rules in court and the petitions are being heard.