Wednesday 14 November 2018

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Right to Info bill guns at scribes' freedom

 

The Congress government here has come under fire for attempting to suppress the Freedom of the Press under the pretext of the Right to Information bill it has presented in the Assembly.

Some draconian clauses are unethically inserted in the legislation with the sole intention to muzzle the Press, charge the Editors' Guild and the Goa Union of Journalists, who are now planning a state-wide agitation over the issue.

Section 9 (1) of the bill states : "Where a person obtains information under this act for malafide purposes or publishes in any manner information, which he has reason to believe to be false, shall be punishable with fine which shall not be less than Rs 10,000".

"The government intention is clear", alleges Ashwin Tombat, the Editors' Guild secretary, "when the fine for the government officer furnishing false information is a maximum Rs 5000, while for those guilty of publishing this false information, it is a minimum of Rs 10,000".

Sharing a similar view, GUJ president Prakash Kamat also points out that the government has no logic in justifying it since the person who should be actually punished for furnishing false information is the officer and not the one who publishes it, believing it to be true.

Both the organisations however also clarify that in no way they intend to protect or justify yellow journalism. But there are number of civil and criminal reliefs available to the victims of yellow journalism, they argue.

Tombat has now threatened a nation-wide campaign on the issue of stifling Freedom of the Press by the government as the bill is similar to the infamous Bihar Press bill and the Tamil Nadu Press Act.

"On the contrary, it goes a step ahead by making a special provision to implicate the proprietors and managements of publications and presume them guilty until they prove their innocence", states the Goa Today editor.

Section 10 of the bill, subtitled as Offences by Companies, holds guilty "...every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of and was responsible to the company..", including its director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company.

"The Congress government's malafide intention to target the publishing houses is clearly exposed by bringing private companies under its purview only to hold them guilty for publishing 'false' information obtained from the government", points out Kamat.






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