A number of mainstream media outlets recently reported that the Punjab government had directed various departments to monitor the social media activities of their employees to check whether they criticized government policies.
The Tribune claimed in an article that the Punjab government reportedly asked all administrative secretaries to monitor their employees’ social media activity to check whether they were commenting adversely on government policies. Though the outlet has since deleted the article, an archived version can be found here. The daily also shared the article on its official Twitter handle, which has also been deleted. (Archived link)
Right-wing propaganda website OpIndia also released an article claiming the Punjab government would monitor the social media activity of government employees. (Archived link)
Reacting to the news, former Union Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal said in a now deleted tweet, “As per our constitution, all citizens have the right to freedom of speech/expression, then how can the Aam Aadmi Party of Punjab government direct administrative secretaries to keep tabs on employees critical of government policies? If Bhagwant Mann is not doing anything wrong, then why stop the voices with such instructions?” Readers can find the archived version of the tweet here.
IANS, News18, Bhaskar Hindi, Latestly, News Nation, News18 Hindi also covered the development.
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In the same context, a document is also viral on social media. It contains instructions to all administrative secretaries to regularly monitor social media networks and to identify and issue notices to employees who criticize government policies on social media.
It is being claimed that the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab issued this order.
Several right-wing influencers, politicians and social media users tweeted the document linking it to the Punjab government. Among them were prominent advocate Prashant Bhushan, Gujarat BJP media co-coordinator Zubin Asra, Akhilesh Kant Jha, Adnan Ali Khan, Kumar Manish, along some handles which frequently share misinformation, like Megh Updates, and @BefittingFacts.
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Alt News noticed that the Aam Aadmi Party Punjab had tweeted from its official handle that the viral news fake. They said the viral document was actually related to the governance of Jammu and Kashmir, and had nothing to do with the Punjab government. Along with this, Aam Aadmi Party Punjab had tweeted a longer version of the viral document in a thread, in which (JKSSR/JKPSC) was highlighted.
To check the veracity of the document, we examined public Telegram groups of students preparing for JKSSRB. We found that a longer version of the viral document was sent on a Telegram channel named JKSSRB ASPIRANTS on February 18.
We noticed that the signature of under secretary with chief secretary Dr Farooq Paul was present on the viral document. Alt News reached out to him for more information on this issue. He confirmed that this was a document related to the Jammu and Kashmir administration, and had nothing to do with the Punjab government.
Later, The Tribune issued a clarification in the newspaper and wrote that the Punjab government had not issued any such order.
To sum it up, several media outlets, politicians and right-wing influencers falsely attributed a directive by the Jammu and Kashmir administration to identify and issue notices to employees criticizing government policies on social media to Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party government.