Bengal government probing ‘Poonam Pande’ episode

Internet intermediaries in India are not willing to learn lessons from their past mistakes. From time to time objectionable contents have been appearing in both print and digital formats of press and media. This is despite that fact that such publication is criminal offence under various laws of India.

Recently, a nude picture that was published in Kolkata’s Telegraph edition caused a furor among the citizens, leading to a road blockage for over six hours. The same picture was also published in Hindustan Times that was subsequently taken down from the electronic version of the paper/website.

There are many pertinent questions to be asked about the unbridled (and burgeoning) use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media as a source of news by newspapers and TV stations—not to mention websites like these.

One of those questions faces The Telegraph, Calcutta, which carried a picture* posted by the actor-stripper Poonam Pandey on her Twitter account (@iPoonampandey) in its tabloid t2 section on Monday.

In the picture*, Pandey—who threatened to pose nude if India won the cricket 2011 World Cup—stands naked with a photograph of “God” as an offering to Sachin Tendulkar, who scored his 100th hundred in Dhaka last week.

“Thinking what pic should I gift the “God of Cricket”…. This historic moment reminds me of an old pic which one of my fans had morphed…. this was the pic….”

The use of a tiny picture* in a city tabloid to celebrate the momentous occasion has resulted in a fullblown communal issue in Calcutta.

Wednesday’s Telegraph carried a front-page appeal by the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.

“Some people are trying to stoke violence over a photograph published in a newspaper. I appeal to all members of the Hindu and Muslim commuities to steer clear of any provocation. The newspaper which carried the picture today tendered an apology.”

The Telegraph‘s apology, also carried on page one, read:

The Telegraph tenders an unconditional apology for reproducing a tweet by @iPoonpandey in Monday’s edition of t2. The publication was the result of a technical error. The Telegraph had no intention to hurt the sentiments of any community. We sincerely apologise for the hurt the publication of the tweet has caused.”


* photograph for representative purposes

Adding another chapter to this episode, the West Bengal government has on Friday sent bulk SMS to various individuals, companies, newspapers and media houses directing them not to publish any further objectionable material in this regard.

According to Praveen Dalal, managing partner of ICT law firm Perry4Law and leading techno legal expert of Asia, this single episode attracts Civil and Criminal Liabilities on the part of those involved in the making, uploading, publication and circulation of the same in paper and electronic form. The Cyber Law of India prescribes stringent Due Diligence Requirements that paper based and electronic publishers must follow. If they do not follow Cyber Due Diligence, they can be Criminally Prosecuted by the Government, opines Praveen Dalal.

In fact, the Bengal government has already started the probe in this regard and the culprits would be brought to the book very soon. However, the way this episode has been handled by media shows great disregard to the laws of India, especially the cyber law of India.

Media is India is largely Self Regulated but the Indian Government has recently formulated the Press and Registration of Books and Publications Bill 2011 to regulated “Publication of Contents” informs Praveen Dalal. The Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology for its inputs before it may be presented in the Parliament of India, informs Dalal.

Media must be vigil to follow the laws of India, especially the cyber law of India, to retain the self regulation privileges that it is enjoying. If casual and careless publications would continue, there would be no other option left for the government but to regulation their affairs in a more intrusive manner.

(courtesy: churumuri & CJNEWS INDIA)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s