15 Feb Social Media vs State: Freedom of Speech- Reality vs Law!
- Recently, amidst the farmers’ protest the govt. had directed the social media giant Twitter to block/suspend certain accounts based on the input that the contents uploaded might incite chaos and lead to violence.
- The govt. clarified that they invoked the Section 69A of the Information Technology Act for this directive.
- Soon after the accounts were suspended, Twitter restored them stating that the government’s own directives to suppress access to the accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians, violated even the Indian law, and the Constitutional assurance of the freedom of speech.
- After the famous Shreya Singhal vs the Union of India case, where the SC had struck down the contentious Section 66A of the IT Act in 2015 for being unconstitutional, Section 69A had taken precedence.
- The court had observed in 2015 that the Section had no procedural safeguard and hence must be termed null and void.
- However, the court had also observed that the Section 69A also doesn’t provide a blanket mandate to the State, the actions can be challenged under the Writ petition.
- Differentiating genuine criticism from hate speech often blurs the line resulting in uncanny precedences to be reviewed.
- The general view is that the State often tries to suppress the views that run against it.
- In a report published in 2018, India ranked 138th among the 180 countries figuring in the annual World Press Freedom Index.
- Committee to Protect Journalists has published a report that at least 50 journalists have been killed in work-related matters in India post-liberalization of the economy.
- In any democracy, Freedom of Speech has been guaranteed a Fundamental Right and must be upheld.
- While it is also necessary to have a law that restricts individuals/groups from spreading hate and communal disharmony, it must not become a tool for misuse.
- Accountability must be expected while using the provisions of Article 19(2)’s reasonable restrictions.
- The perpetual power of contempt of court, uncodified legislative privilege, the law of sedition must be treated with extreme care and vigil.
|World Press Freedom Index: