Popular political cartoonist Manjul’s contract with Network18 has been terminated, people familiar with the situation told Scroll.in. This came days after Twitter sent the cartoonist a notice informing him that it has received a legal request from Indian authorities to take action against his social media profile.
He had been working with Network18, a media company owned by Reliance Industries, on a contract basis for the last six years, reported The Wire.
This came as lawyer Prashant Bhushan said on Thursday that he has received a notice from Twitter for sharing a cartoon by Satish Acharya, an editorial cartoonist. Bhushan said he was informed by the social media company that the tweet “violates the law(s) of India”.
On June 4, Manjul had shared the email he received from Twitter. Unlike in Bhushan’s case, the government had sought action against Manjul’s profile instead of a specific tweet.
Sharing the email on social media, Manjul wrote: “Jai ho Modi ji ki sarkaar ki [Hail the Modi government].” He also said it would have been good if the government mentioned which tweet of his had caused a problem.
The cartoonist has illustrated the grim reality of the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India and the slow pace of the vaccination drive.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Bhushan shared a screenshot of the email he received from Twitter and the cartoon concerned and asked: “Which laws Sir? Sedition? Or the law against looting banks?”
According to the screenshot of the email shared by Bhushan, Twitter said it has not taken any action at this time on the request.
In April, during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, 52 tweets were taken down from the social media platform following orders from the government. The Centre claimed the tweets were spreading fake news, but the majority of them were critical of the government’s handling of the health crisis as the second wave in India led to states grappling with shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and vaccines.
The development on Thursday also came at a time when tension has been brewing between Twitter and the Narendra Modi government on the new information technology rules.
The new information technology rules – which were announced in February and became effective in May – are framed to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
Among other things, the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021” regulations require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. All of them should be based in India. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.
Twitter has said it was “making every effort” to comply with the new rules after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology told the social media company on June 5 that it has one last chance to comply with the rules or face “unintended consequences”.
This came after Twitter was critical of the regulations. The social media company had said it was concerned about the “potential threat” to freedom of expression as India’s new social media rules came into effect. The company had added that it will “strive to comply with applicable law” in India, but will be strictly guided by the principals of transparency.