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Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha Among Twitter Pages ‘Withheld in India’

Several other individual Twitter accounts connected with the farmers’ movement have also been suspended.

Following a spate of FIRs against journalists and news portals over their coverage of farmers’ protests, several Twitter accounts, including those of The Caravan and the Kisan Ekta Morcha (the official page for the farmers’ agitation), on Monday, 1 February, have been “withheld in India in response to a legal demand”.

Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha Among Twitter Pages ‘Withheld in India’
Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha Among Twitter Pages ‘Withheld in India’

Dear @twitter @TwitterIndia could you explain the grounds for witholding CEO Prasar Bharati’s twitter handle @shashidigital in India ? pic.twitter.com/ITGpYCaLur— Prasar Bharati प्रसार भारती (@prasarbharati) February 1, 2021

Their Facebook accounts are still active. Vinod Jose, editor-in-chief of The Caravan said they were not aware of any communication from Twitter and will be writing to the social media platform for further clarity.

The account of Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO of Prasar Bharati, India’s largest public broadcasting service, has also been also withheld.

Dear @twitter @TwitterIndia could you explain the grounds for witholding CEO Prasar Bharati’s twitter handle @shashidigital in India ? pic.twitter.com/ITGpYCaLur— Prasar Bharati प्रसार भारती (@prasarbharati) February 1, 2021

Multiple accounts activists like Sushant Singh, Md Asif Khan and Hansraj Meena are also part of the list.

Baljit Singh, head of IT for the farmers’ agitation, says private accounts of some other activists connected with the protest have also been withheld.

Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha Among Twitter Pages ‘Withheld in India’
Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha Among Twitter Pages ‘Withheld in India’

Upon ‘Receipt of Properly Scoped Request From Authorised Entity’, Twitter Responds

Meanwhile, Twitter, on Monday said, “In our effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a properly scoped request from authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in particular country. Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we’ve a notice policy for withheld content. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify the affected account holders (unless we are prohibited from doing so e.g. if we receive a court order under seal).”

According to Twitter’s rules, an account can only be withheld based on a valid legal demand such as a court order. At this time, it is unclear which court in India has issued such an order.

Meanwhile, news agency ANI, quoting sources, said the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) directed Twitter to block around 250 Tweets/Twitter accounts which the government claimed were using #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag and making fake, intimidatory and provocative Tweets on 30 January.

The news agency further said that according to their sources, “This was done on the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the on-going farmer agitation.”

“Incitement to genocide is a grave threat to public order & therefore the Ministry of Electronics & IT ordered for blocking of these Twitter accounts & Tweets under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. Twitter has blocked these Tweets/Twitter Accounts,” ANI said quoting sources.

Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor of The Caravan, denied that the publication ever used any such hashtag from their official account.

FIRs Against Journalists and Media Houses

Recently, a number of FIRs were filed against journalists and media houses, including Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today, Siddharth Vardarajan of The Wire and The Caravan, for allegedly misreporting the death of a farmer on Republic Day.

Delhi Police has been criticised for cracking down on freedom of press, especially after a freelance journalist, Mandeep Punia, was arrested from the Singhu Border on Saturday, 30 January.

(This is a developing story.)

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