Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday, November 22 assured people that the amendment to the Kerala Police Act will not be used against free speech or impartial journalism.

According to the new amendment signed by Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, those found guilty of spreading derogatory or defamatory content through any means, including the social media will be punished. A three-year jail term, a fine of Rs10,000 or both is what the accused will have to face.

Speaking to the media the Cheif Minister said that social media platforms were being misused rampantly and that the government was receiving several complaints due to which it had to make a decision. 

“The State Government was repeatedly receiving complaints against the wide misuse of social media, especially by certain online channels. Even prominent public and cultural figures had made such complaints. They have brought to the notice of the Government instances where inhuman and vile cyber attacks were carried out by some in the guise of journalism and how it even harmed the family lives of many. It has often turned into targeted attacks using untruths and even sleazy content. Many families are bearing the consequences of such attacks,” said Kerala CM.

Vijayan said the state is bound to protect the liberty and dignity of an individual, but no action would be taken against the media or critics till they don’t violate the Constitution and stay within limits.

“Along with ensuring the freedom of the press, the Government also has the responsibility of upholding a citizen’s individual freedom and his/her dignity as enshrined in the Constitution. The popular idea that one’s freedom ends where the other’s nose begins needs to be respected. One has the liberty to swing one’s fist, but it ends where the other`s nose begins. However, there have been instances of this idea being repeatedly violated,” said Kerala CM.

“In the name of the freedom of the press, individual freedom cannot be violated and similarly, in the name of individual freedom, the freedom of the press cannot be violated. The government is duty-bound to protect both. It is in this context that even at the international level measures are being put in place against the infringement of personal dignity. The amendment in the Kerala Police Act is only those that are in tune with such measures,” he added.

Meanwhile, the opposition alleges that the amendment is draconian and could be used to suppress freedom of speech, gag the media and silence critics of the government.

(With agency inputs)

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