A Kannada news portal has been served a notice by Bengaluru Cybercrime Police asking them to reveal the source of a document, based on which the portal did a story and published an image of the document in November 2022.
The news portal The File’s founder and editor G. Mahantesh was served a notice on January 5, Thursday, in connection with a case pertaining to the leak of an e-office file noting of the Education Department that was published in the portal. The notice seeks the source of the leaked e-office file noting. The notice asks Mr. Mahantesh to furnish the source’s identity, name, address and ID card.
The FIR registered on November 10, acting on a complaint by a senior official of the department, under Section 66 of Information Technology Act, 2000, is against unknown individuals for illegally accessing and leaking the document from the department’s e-office portal. The document in question is an e-office file noting about the reinstatement of M.P. Madegowda as managing director Karnataka Text Book Society, after he was arrested in the teacher recruitment scam and was released on bail.
“The case poses a new threat to journalists. As more and more departments are becoming paperless, any leak of a document — the source of most journalism — is being criminalised by misusing cybercrime laws. This is being done in an attempt to threaten whistle-blower officers inside the system and harass journalists at the same time. Earlier, leak of only those documents that fit the definition of an official secret could be criminalised,” said G. Mahantesh.
His counsel B.T. Venkatesh said they had responded to the notice issued by the police stating the news portal was duty bound to protect the interests of the source. “Moreover, the document in question pertains to public affairs and could be easily obtained under the RTI Act, 2005. We have asked whether the document could be defined as an official secret under the Official Secrets Act, 1923,” he said.