The National Alliance of Journalists on Tuesday strongly condemned the “intimidatory tactics” used against Twitter India by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police whose teams landed at the microblogging site's offices in Lado Sarai in Delhi and in Gurgaon on Monday.
The two police teams reached Twitter offices to purportedly serve a notice regarding a complaint in the ‘Toolkit’ matter, which was part of a “routine process,” as per Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the Congress of creating a 'toolkit' that tarnished the image of the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congress has denied the allegations and filed a complaint with the police.
Meanwhile, Twitter labelled a tweet by BJP’s Sambit Patra on the alleged 'toolkit' as "manipulated media". According to Twitter, it "may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated.”
Even though the Twitter offices were closed due to the ongoing lockdown, “the Police had tipped off TV channels and the ‘raids’ were well publicised, sending a message to Twitter that the government means business now,” the National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) said in a statement.
In a joint statement, NAJ President S.K.Pande, NAJ Secretary General N. Kondaiah, Delhi Union of Journalists General Secretary Sujata Madhok , and APWJF General Secretary G. Anjaneyulu said, “ It is ironic that a social media platform which many have called partisan and aligned with the ruling party should lately be at the receiving end of the government’s displeasure. In recent months Twitter officials have refused to comply with government demands to take down certain accounts.” They also pointed out that the government has already directed Twitter to remove the tag of ‘manipulated media’ on the posts by BJP leaders but the social media platform has not complied.
Objecting to the Delhi Police’s actions, the NAJ statement said, “If the intention was merely to serve a notice, this could have been done online, over email, not by sending large police teams to the offices of Twitter. We view this as one more attack on the freedom of expression in India today. “
On the other hand, defending the police action, Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal said, "It appears that Twitter has some information which is not known to us and on the basis of which they have classified it (Patra's tweet) as such. This information is relevant to the inquiry. The Special Cell, which is conducting the inquiry, wants to find out the truth. Twitter, which has claimed to know the underlying truth, should clarify.”
The police in the notice requested Twitter India MD to be present in the DCP office for the purpose of investigation with all the relevant documents on May 22 at 1 PM.
The NAJ statement further noted that earlier this year, the central government notified the Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to regulare digital news media, OTT platforms and social media companies. These rules stipulate social media platforms to divulge to government agencies the originator of any online post. Whereas, the ongoing police enquiry in the ‘toolkit’ matter is probing who created the ‘toolkit’ that at around 10 top BJP leaders and ministers shared on Twitter claiming it was made by the Congress.
(With PTI inputs)