The Manipur Police on Tuesday withdrew the legal notice sent to 'The Frontier Manipur' (TFM) magazine under the new digital media guidelines within a few hours after the central government stepped in.
The notice issued by the District Magistrate on Monday, March 1, was retracted with immediate effect. The Imphal-based news portal was issued the notice for its weekend show 'Khanasi Neinasi', which was also shared on its YouTube channel.
The show takes up issues related to human rights, freedom of expression, speech and media. The notice was sent a day after the show was shared on Facebook, stating that TFM was required to comply with the new regulatory guidelines.
Speaking to The Wire, the executive editor of the TFM news magazine, Paojel Chaoba, said he found a notice posted on the office gate in the evening. The next day, around 9:00 am, nearly six-seven police officers had arrived at his office-cum-residence to deliver the notice.
He was directed to furnish all the relevant documents related to the news portal, showing that it ensured compliance with the provisions of the Information Technology Rules 2021, failing to which necessary steps will be taken.
Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary, Amit Khare, wrote to the Manipur Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar, stating that the district magistrate, state governments and the police commissioner had no authority to issue the notice.
In his letter to the DM, Khare clarified that Part 3 of the Information Technology Guidelines (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Cod) Rules 2021 framed under IT Act 2000, relating to the news publishers, can only be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Only the ministry has the power to seek documentation, information, compliance with the rules and addressing the grievances in the 3-tier mechanism, the letter further read.
The journalist called the notice a 'systematic attack' on media and criticised the officials involved in the documentation.
The show is hosted by Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a local journalist who has been slapped with several cases and has attracted the ire of the N. Biren Singh government since 2018. Wangkhem has also been jailed three times.
In 2018, he uploaded a video on Facebook critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biren Singh and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including sedition, and National Security Act (NSA). However, the Manipur High Court had dismissed the charges against him.
Later in September 2020, he was taken into custody and charged with sedition for allegedly promoting enmity between different social media groups but was released in December.