The Manipur government has warned people against spreading fake news and misinformation on social media amid the sensitive law and order situation in the state. In an order today, the Manipur government said “generation or spreading of wrong information will amount to sedition.”
The government said no one will be “immune to prosecution under the laws of the country” if found spreading or generating fake news, lies, rumours or misinformation.
The government’s warning comes as Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to reach state capital Imphal tonight to review the situation and hold peace talks with all communities.
“A number of individuals in responsible positions having many followers on social media have been observed to be directly involved in generating and/or sharing information in connection with the ongoing law and order situation in Manipur… Many such information has been found to be fake news, lies, rumours or misinformation,” Manipur Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi said in an order today, allowing the government to act against those who spread misinformation.
The government said misinformation and fake news can – even as the authorities try to bring peace and normalcy – worsen the situation by “misguiding public opinion, instigating violence and rebelling against the authority of the state with or without use of arms.”
“… Such generation or spreading of wrong information will amount to sedition… and is sought to be curtailed,” the government said in the order. “Every person, acting individually or on behalf of any group of people, based in Manipur or outside, shall verify any information before sharing or publishing…” the government said.
Manipur has been without internet for nearly a month. The ethnic violence between the Meiteis, who live in and around Imphal valley, and the Kuki tribe, who are settled in the hills, over the Meiteis’ demand to be included under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category has claimed over 80 lives since clashed started on May 3.
The authorities have identified several social media accounts from both the communities that have been spreading misinformation, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told NDTV, asking not to be identified.
“We are aware that many social media accounts based abroad and in India have been spreading fake news and misinformation on the Manipur crisis. Some of them are verified handles. We are not taking it lightly. If not now because of the law and order problem, action will happen sooner than anyone would expect. We are certain about that,” the person told NDTV.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh told reporters yesterday they have got reports that “40 terrorists” have been shot dead.
The Chief Minister said the spurt in violent attacks on civilians on the outskirts of Imphal valley in the past two days seemed well-planned and is strongly condemnable, especially when Minister of State Nityanand Rai is in Manipur on a peace mission.
Over 25 Kuki insurgent groups have signed the tripartite “suspension of operations” (SoO) agreement with the centre and the state government. Under the SoO rules, the insurgents are to be confined in designated camps identified by the government and the weapons kept under locks, regularly monitored.