Kerala Kaumudi Online
Wednesday, 25 November 2020 7.52 AM IST

Editorial: New rule shouldn't spell trouble for media


As per the government, a subsection that is being introduced to section 118 of the Kerala Police Act is aimed at handling dangerous individuals. When you look closely, you can also some potentially harmful sections. The legal action will come into play not only against those who behave recklessly online but also the media. Media including dailies and television can be penalized for controversial content. All it needs a petition regarding controversial content. In short, media is not free from the threat the new section poses. The new rule can penalize a person with up to five years in prison or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both. Not only the cyber world, but any form of media can also be brought under the law's knife. As any person can file a lawsuit against the content, the owners/the one running the firm will only have time to go behind such cases. If stopping cyber crimes is the main aim with the introduction of the new subsection that could have been elucidated. The law will now be applicable to every media out there through these words- 'by any means'.

The political allegations, corruption, and defamation can be brought under the limits of the new law. While defamation cases require a petitioner to file a case, the new rule allows the police to take a case on anyone's complaint. The law minister AK Minister has made it clear that the new rule is to tackle to assault and defamations attempts and the organized attempts against women on social media. But in that case, as well, all media houses in the state will fall into the category through 'any media'. The formation of a special police wing to collect controversial media content comes to mind. The was a major protest from the public and the media against this measure. All should understand that any action that hinders the freedom of media in the name of cyber purification can cause the opposite result.

Already there is a law powerful enough to put those violating social media under check. The problem is the lack of action on the petitions filed by the public. The general assumption that the law is not strong enough is because of the lapse in maintaining law and order. The fact that dubbing artiste Bhagyalakshmi and group had to physically assault the sleazy YouTuber was due to the police's effectiveness. This can be easily solved by strengthening the cyber department of the police and inducting smart officers. Such assault against women cannot be effectively stopped by just bringing forth a new rule. Only by penalizing the culprits, such offenses can be decreased.

Any extra authority the police have over the general public can be used by them to hurt the people. As there are a lot of officers within the police force that won't hesitate to bend the law to get the praise of the superiors, one should also expect the misuse of section 118 (A). Precautionary action should be taken to stop that from happening. Even if the new rule is indeed aimed at the abusers of social media, the action taken by the law should be independent and unbiased. The High Court recently said that strong action is needed to tackle character assassinations against women and defamatory campaigns on social media. The new rule is also brought into with the HC's recommendation in mind as well. However, it should also be remembered that experts on law have also shared the doubt in the new amendment which also affects the media.

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