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I&B Ministry Asks ‘The Caravan’ to Take Down Article on Poonch Civilian Deaths in Army Custody in 24 Hours

The order was issued under the controversial Section 69 of the IT Act. The magazine tweeted that it would challenge the order.

New Delhi: The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, using Section 69 of the controversial Information Technology Act, has directed The Caravan magazine to pull down an investigative report within 24 hours or face shutdown of its website.

The said article, ‘Screams from the Army Post’, is on three civilian deaths in Poonch, Jammu, in December 2023, allegedly due to torture in Indian Army custody. It was published on February 1,

This is to inform readers we have received an order from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting under Section 69A of the IT Act, directing us to take down this story in 24 hrs..” posted The Caravan on its X (formerly Twitter) handle, linking the article. The magazine said the government order’s content was confidential, adding that “we will be challenging the order”.

Under Section 69 of the IT Act, the government can issue content-blocking orders to internet service providers, telecom service providers, web hosting services, search engines etc. if the content is seen as a threat to national security, public order and the country’s sovereignty. It grants the Central government the power to conduct an all-around e-surveillance on citizens, even decrypting encrypted data on their devices.

Several media organisations and the Internet Freedom Foundation have challenged the rules in court and the petitions are being heard.

The said article was a follow-up on the deaths of three civilians in PoonchSafeer Hussain (43), Mohd Showket (27) and Shabir Ahmad (32) on December 22, 2023, after a group of them were picked up by the Indian Army for questioning following a suspected militant attack in Pir Panjal valley that killed four Army personnel the previous day.

The three civilian deaths in Army custody had led to a huge outcry in the region with political parties in Jammu & Kashmir holding protests against the ‘deaths in custody’ and demanding action against the alleged perpetrators.

Following the outcry, the government announced compensation for each victim.  “The medico-legal formalities were conducted, and the appropriate authority has initiated legal action. The government has announced compensation for each of the deceased. Further Government has also announced compassionate appointments to the next of kin of each deceased,” the Information and PR department of J&K wrote on X at that time.

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