India

Four, including journalist, held for spreading misinformation

New Delhi/Port Blair, April 29 (IANS) Four people, including a government official and journalist, were arrested for spreading false information and instigating mistrust about the protocols followed by the administration on social media in the last one week in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Dependra Pathak, Director General of Police (DGP), Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told IANS, “Spreading false information or mistrust about the protocols followed by the administration will defeat/frustrate the efforts of contact tracing endangering the COVID containment process and hence the very life of citizens at large.”

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The officer said that any false information will defeat the lockdown and social distancing and may lead to mass protests in the territory. He stressed that he would not allow any person to derail the process of containing the Covid spread.

He issued stern instructions that legal action against mischief mongers should be immediately taken upon.

“Whoever came to notice during the due process of administrative and policing scrutiny, due legal action has been taken to nip the danger/apprehension in bud. The legal action taken so far has only been to prevent gullible people getting into disruptions creating law and order problem or communal situation or frustrate the medical and health protocols leading to severe spread of COVID 19 and threat to Island resident's life,” he said.

After a media person was arrested, allegations were levelled against the local police of violating right to speech and expression. Citing allegations as baseless, he said that no deliberate or targeted action against any group or community to curtail their civil liberties and Covid is about life and death and not to create or facilitate or assess stories.

“The specific mention of self-styled media person (who is not registered even) is being made to give it a colour of violation of the right to speech and expression and a misplaced narrative that they have been specifically targeted. Law is community, profession and gender neutral. It has to take its own course,” Pathak said.

In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the first legal action was taken against wife of one fire department staff. “On a secret information received by Station House Officer Aberdeen about circulation of communally objectionable and instigating breach of peace message in a WhatsApp group “Mannarghat Gram Panchayat,” said another senior IPS officer.

The objectionable message was forwarded by Mehrose, wife of fire service officials posted at Chatham. It was examined and a case was registered and later she was arrested and produced in the court where she was granted bail.

Further probe revealed that message was forwarded by two other persons Nasreem and she got the message from Sabina. Both have deleted their messages, however their mobile phones have been seized and legal action has been initiated.

Second legal action was taken against Mohammad Yunus, a government servant, for posting communally sensitive and instigating tweet to disrupt public harmony. He was arrested and released on bail. “This message again had the potential of spreading disaffection in the community at large which may have led to immediate or long-term law and order issues,” the officer explained.

The third action was taken on account of another mischievous tweet by Uttam, son of a Police constable, for posting communally sensitive tweet. “This tweet was malicious and was insinuating towards spread of Covid by a particular community,” the officer explained.

“On April 27, legal action has been taken against Zubair Ahmed, a self-styled journalist who is not a registered media person for posting the inciting, false and instigating tweet having potential to disrupt public harmony, violating government order and to create panic among public,” said the officer, adding that the accused was arrested and produced before court today.

Further, apart from the tweet, information about his informal efforts to dissuade corona virus positives and quarantined contacts not to reveal details to administration came up. The officer said that his act was to jeopardise the very effort of isolating the correct suspects and contain the pandemic from spreading.

The accused is a resident of Bambooflat area, most of which is declared a containment area after several cases emerged from there.

“Extensive contact tracing exercise is underway in the area currently. However, such messages instigate creating distrust among public for the well-established and universal health and contact-tracing protocols, thus motivating people to conceal correct information, falsify their statements, do not cooperate and/or protest against medical protocols and even break the lockdown and gather in large numbers publicly,” said the officer.

He added that in these testing times, Andaman and Nicobar administration had been totally impartial with focused approach only on containing the pandemic.

–IANS

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