TIFR withdraws notice asking staff not to post ‘anti-government’ content on social media
The faculty members viewed the April 13 circular as a restriction on their freedom of speech and the government’s rising intolerance of criticism.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research on Monday withdrew a notice asking employees and their families to not post “anti-government content” on social media, reported The Telegraph.
In the notice issued on April 13, the institute’s registrar, retired Wing Commander George Antony wrote that central agencies and the Department of Atomic Energy had noticed that “certain disgruntled employees” were sharing “anti-government content” on social media.
“Staff members are further informed to desist from uploading any anti-government content over social media,” it said. “Family members too should be appraised about the same.”
The Mumbai-based institute retracted the notice on Monday after protests erupted on the campus and several teachers communicated their displeasure about the notice to the Director S Ramakrishnan, reported The Telegraph.
“The circular is a worrying sign of the government’s increasing intolerance of criticism,” an unidentified faculty member told The Telegraph. “The circular is outrageous and has no basis in the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s rules and by-laws, which restrict participation in active politics but do not prevent employees from criticising the government or public policies.”
The April 13 notice by the administration had also asked the employees and their family members to not share photos or videos of the institute, its centres, field stations, residential colonies “or any other government property” as it could lead to “serious security consequences”.
The faculty members viewed the notice as an interference in their private lives, a restriction on their freedom of speech and one that is against court rulings that protect academic freedom, another unidentified professor of the institute told The Telegraph.
Following the protests, the administration assured the faculty members that corrective action will be taken in the matter, the professor added.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s decision to take a U-turn from its censorship order came two days after the institute had issued a clarification stating that the wording of the notice had created “a great deal of misinterpretation”.
In a note, it added that photography has always been forbidden on the premises of the institute and that public criticism of the institution or the government has always required prior permission.
The institute clarified that the April 13 notice was not meant to impose any new rule, but to tell employees that these existing rules applied to social media, electronic media and print media.
However, the note did not address the section about “anti-government content”.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai is one of the top universities in the country dedicated to research in the natural sciences, computer science, biology and mathematics. It functions under the Union government’s Department of Atomic Energy. It was established in 1945, under Homi Bhabha, with support from Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.