Assam: Case Against Independent News Portal for Report Questioning BJP Ministers’ Photos on Hoardings

Assam: Case Against Independent News Portal for Report Questioning BJP Ministers' Photos on Hoardings
Image Credit: News Portal

Guwahati: The Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), Assam has filed a police grievance urging the police to ‘initiate appropriate legal action’ below Section 45 of the Information and Technology Act towards an impartial Assam-based information portal, The Cross Current, on August 6. The Dispur police has registered a case based mostly on the grievance.

Earlier, the DIPR had filed a grievance searching for an authorized motion below Section 66A of the IT Act – which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015. On Saturday night, the federal government modified the part it wished to be invoked.

Gogoi’s lawyer Santanu Borthakur advised The Wire, “The FIR also includes charges of defamation under Sections 294/500/505(2) of the IPC.”

The policy grievance was filed for a video information report which was crucial of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Minister of data/public relations Pijush Hazarika and the state DIPR.

Gautam Pratim Gogoi, the reporter for the story – titled ‘Was Pijush Hazarika subjected to warnings while trying to be Himanta Biswa Sarma’s sycophant?’ – was summoned by the Dispur police on Friday and needed to spend the evening at the police station.

The video report has now been far away from the portal’s website, Facebook and YouTube.

Gogoi advised The Wire that the video was eliminated resulting from a ‘technical glitch’. His pen drive has been seized by the police, he stated.

The Cross Current, an impartial Assamese information portal that was launched in 2019, is kind of crucial of the ruling BJP in its information protection reporting.

It has now discovered itself within the occasion’s crosshairs on account of an information report which questioned the federal government for the extreme use of Sarma’s photographs on hoardings erected to commemorate two occasions – congratulating Olympic boxer Lovlina Borgohain and commemorating the loss of life anniversary of Assam’s first chief minister, Gopinath Bordoloi.

Controversy over the hoardings started across the eve of the Olympics Games when a number of hoardings got here up in and around Guwahati with Assam sports activities minister Bimal Bora’s picture as a substitute of Lovlina’s.

Again later, hoardings had been erected carrying Sarma’s photograph as a substitute of hers. The hoardings had the message, “Congratulations and best wishes to Lovlina Borgohain (boxer) for qualifying for Tokyo Olympic 2020”. The sub-head learns, “You are the pride of Assam”.

On August 5, hoardings had been erected to commemorate the loss of life anniversary of Assam’s first chief minister, Gopinath Bordoloi. A big photograph of Sarma’s was seen on these boards, whereas Bordoloi’s picture took an again seat, showing in a small round body simply above the current chief minister.

Interestingly, the hoardings didn’t carry the title of any authorities division.

Several social media customers criticized and ridiculed these hoarding, accusing Sarma and Bimal Bora of self-promotion, vainness and vanity.

In his video report, Gogoi had questioned who had ordered and paid for these hoardings, since no authorities division was named.

On August 5, Sarma tweeted, “I do not endorse this kind of branding at all. Instruction has been issued not to use my picture from now onwards without prior approval of my office.”

Speaking to News Portal, Gogoi stated, “The video report was raising some basic questions. We asked who installed the hoardings since there were no names of any state department. Another question that we asked was that Sarma had tweeted that he doesn’t endorse such branding, but how do the hoardings appear without his knowledge? Was the public relations department behind it? Was it a sycophantic attempt by minister Pijush Hazarika to be in Sarma’s good books that backfired?”

“The DIPR said that we telecast fake news. The FIR also stated that in the video we said that the hoardings were erected by the DIPR. But we didn’t say that. We only asked questions. I had to spend one night at the police station. It was not in the lock-up. It is quite baffling as we did the story based on Sarma’s tweet.”

The earlier policy grievance filed by the DIPR acknowledged, “We clarify that the Information and Public Relations Department is not at all involved in publishing and erecting the above-mentioned hoardings.

In the said telecast the name of Shri Pijush Hazarika the honorable minister of Information and Public Relations, and the Printing and Stationery Department was used by the web portal was used completely with malafide interest to malign the image of the minister and department in the public eye. Whereas, neither the minister nor the Information/Public Relations and Printing/Stationery Department are involved in the matter.”