The Indian government has moved legally to take action against the Twitter account of cartoonist Manjul, the social media company has informed him.
On Friday, Manjul tweeted out an email from Twitter stating that the government had sought action against his profile instead of a specific tweet, claiming it “violates the laws of India”.
“We have not taken any action on the reported content at this time as a result of this request,” the email said, suggesting he could seek legal
counsel and challenge the government’s request in court. Moreover, Twitter said that Manjul could also voluntarily delete the content or contact civil society groups.
Since the email does not specify which tweet violated the law, Manjul tweeted that it would have been better if the government clarified it.
The cartoonist has been critically vocal of the government’s handling of the second wave of the pandemic.
“When I got this email, I was furious. This is purely intimidation," Manjul told Newslaundry. “Twitter tried to waive off its responsibilities by sending me an email, just so in case another notice is served tomorrow, I will have to bear its brunt.”
He was concerned about his livelihood since his clients could now feel “scared” to associate with him. “This will impact my clients. I’m on the verge of losing my clients. But I still put this out,” he explained.
Although Twitter suggested several ways in which Manjul could challenge the government's move against him, he said he would respond by drawing more cartoons. “Cartoons banata rahunga,” he said. “I will keep drawing cartoons. I am least bothered by such intimidation. As long as my clients permit, I will keep drawing."
He pointed out that this wasn’t the first time the government had sought to muzzle critical voices. “Be it the case of Disha Ravi or of Siddiqui Kappan, the state hasn’t protected such voices,” he explained, adding that there were many abusive people on social media, but no action was taken against them. “I did not abuse the government. But it is me who has been served the notice,” he said.
Manjul, a professional cartoonist for 32 years, said he has lately been seeking to show that the Narendra Modi government does not want the public to know how it handled the second wave of the pandemic in order to “safeguard” its image.
Now that the government has moved against him, the cartoonist said, it was likely that sections of the media would defend it. “The so-called mainstream media will never cover this incident and many propaganda sites funded and protected by this govt will label me anti-national,” he said.
In April, complying with the central government’s requests, Twitter had censored at least , claiming that they were spreading “fake news”. However, most of the tweets criticised India’s handling of the pandemic.