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'Kerala Police Act will not be used against freedom of speech', clarifies CM Vijayan

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 22: Amid criticism, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday clarified that the new amendment to the Kerala Police Act will not be used against freedom of speech or impartial media activity in any way.

Pinarayi Vijayan

"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," a statement from the chief ministers office said.

"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," the statement said.

Vijayan also pointed out that the use of personal likes or dislikes, political or non political interests and so on to unsettle the peaceful atmosphere of families so as to settle scores arising out of revenge cannot be allowed.

Kerala Governor signs controversial police act amendment ordinance

"In several instances such cyber attacks have resulted in heart wrenching tragedies. Such attacks which are carried out without hearing the side of those who are being attacked do not fall under the category of journalism. They are simply personal vendetta in action. Many a time, monetary interests are behind such devious designs," he said.

"Along with ensuring the freedom of 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," he added

"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. In the name of the freedom of press, individual freedom cannot be violated and similarly, in the name of individual freedom, the freedom of the press cannot be violated," he said.

"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 amendments in the Kerala Police Act are only those that are in tune with such measures," The chief minister asserted.

"Our effort to ensure the respect and dignity of each individual should not create any apprehension in the minds of the media and the general public. The amendment only has clauses that are in tune with the sections that ensure the freedom of press and individual liberty," he added.

"The amendment has been introduced also in the context of the cyber attacks being faced by women and transgenders. The government will certainly consider all creative opinions and suggestions that are being aired with regard to this amendment," Vijayan said in the statement.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance, envisaged by the Left government in thestate to prevent cyber attacks against women and children which the opposition had alleged would curtail freedom of expression.

A Raj Bhavan source confirmed that the Governor, who had come back to the official residence recently after recovering from the COVID-19, signed the ordinance which had triggered widespread row in the southern state.

The opposition parties had alleged that the amendment would give more power to the police and also curtail the freedom of the press.

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