Principal Secretary Information Avanish Awasthi, meanwhile, said that the order was ‘purely local’.
Lucknow: In a bizarre order, journalists in Lalitpur district in Uttar Pradesh have been asked to furnish all details of WhatsApp groups of which they are the administrators. A joint order signed by district magistrate Manvendra Singh and superintendent of police OP Singh said the administrators of all media WhatsApp groups should submit a registration form to the information department office.
The one-page registration form requires the name, address (with proof) and Aadhaar of the administrators as well as the number of members of the group as on August 31, 2018 along with a photograph of the group admin and his/her WhatsApp number.
No member can be added to a group without permission of the group admin, who will also be responsible for ensuring that no religious or political messages that could disturb communal harmony are circulated
The order says that those who fail to comply would face legal action under the IT Act. The order also contains an advisory for local news channels, web portals and publications. The order says no news portal can be run without the government’s permission. Instructions have been issued to all government officials not to speak with such news portals. The letter further instructs local police stations to check whether the group admin has a criminal record.
District magistrate Manvendra Singh, when asked, said, “Our move has been appreciated by everyone, including the local media. There is a lobby of fake journalists who are trying to take advantage of such groups to harass people and extort money. Our aim is to control such persons and not the media”. Though the orders are presently confined to one district, the diktat has miffed scribes across the state. The journalists are now speculating if the directive could be issued in other districts as well. or if the government itself could enforce it in the state.
K Vishwadev Rao, national convener of social media cell of Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ), said, “If fake news is the concern, administration should crack on those who are spreading rumours and not the scribes. Asking journalists to register their messaging app groups with government’s information department is clearly an attempt to bring independent media under government control”.
Principal Secretary Information Avanish Awasthi, meanwhile, said that the order was ‘purely local’. “There is no such order from the government or the department of information. If any such order has been issued by Lalitpur district magistrate, then it is purely at the local level. The state government is looking into the matter”, he said.