Kerala Governor signs ordinance seeking to curb publishing of derogatory content

The government had mooted the revision against the high-profile instance of a group of women activists confronting a blogger who used his YouTube channel to broadcast abusive and derogatory comments against them

Updated - November 22, 2020 09:36 pm IST

Published - November 21, 2020 02:16 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan. File

Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan. File

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has signed an ordinance amending the Kerala Police Act purportedly to give the law enforcement more teeth to prosecute persons who exploit social media to target women and children, according to Raj Bhavan officials.

The State cabinet had in October decided to give an edge to the Kerala Police Act (KPA) by recommending the addition of a new provision, Section 118-A, to the law passed in 2011.

The amendment proposes three years of imprisonment and a fine of ₹10,000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content through any means of communication to intimidate, insult or defame any person.

The government had mooted the revision against the high-profile instance of a  group of women activists taking the law into their own hands to confront a blogger  who used his YouTube channel to broadcast abusive and derogatory comments against them.

The administration felt that the absence of an effective law to tackle online vilification would encourage more such instances of vigilantism.

The Communist Party of India, a coalition partner in the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF),  had questioned the necessity of such an amendment to the KPA.

It felt that the amendment granted wide latitude to law enforcers to crack down on freedom of speech and bully critics, journalists and commentators into obedience.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala had said that the amendment would reverse the course on media freedom, muzzle free speech and jeopardise civil liberties.

He said the amendment also granted the police untrammelled authority to examine published and broadcast content and register cases even in the absence of a specific complaint. Journalist unions had also expressed scepticism about the amendment.

However, the government had clarified that 118-A targetted slanderous social media and online content, and it did not seek to curb reportage, political satire or commentary, as feared.

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