Press bodies say need to re-examine OSA
New Delhi: A group of press bodies on Thursday expressed concern over the government threatening The Hindu newspaper with action under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for publishing articles on the Rafale deal based on documents stolen from the Defence Ministry, and said the legislation needs to "re-examined".
In a joint statement, Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps and Press Association said, "We feel it is time that the Official Secrets Act as well as law on defamation need to be re-examined given the potential of their misuse against the Fourth Estate."
The government on Wednesday told the SC documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and the petitioners seeking a review of its verdict dismissing all pleas against the purchase of the jets relied upon those documents.
The Attorney General also submitted in the apex court that the documents on the deal relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
He had also sought dismissal of the review petitions and perjury application as they relied on stolen documents and said that today's The Hindu report on Rafale amounts to influencing hearing in apex court and is itself contempt of court. "We, the undersigned journalist organisations express deep concern over the statements made by the Attorney General of India insinuating that reports on the Rafale deal published in The Hindu newspaper were based on documents stolen from the Ministry of Defence," the joint statement said.
The Attorney General's statements made in open court suggesting that the publication of such reports and the documents "imperiled national security and therefore should be deemed as criminal, has the potential of sending out a chilling effect to one and all in the media," the statement claimed.
The implications and ramifications of the statements made by the top most legal officer of the government are not only for the media but also for the sources of information that journalists rely on, the press bodies said.
The Editors Guild of India also unequivocally condemned Attorney General's remarks before the Supreme Court pertaining to the documents based on which the media had reported on the Rafale deal, saying any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as "reprehensible" as asking journalists to disclose their sources. The Guild, in a statement, also urged the government to refrain from initiating any action that might undermine the media's freedom and independence.