Journalists, Canadian author, politicians: Several Twitter accounts withheld amid Punjab crackdown

More than 100 suspects have been held while the crackdown on Waris Punjab De chief entered the third day.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi& Ashwine Kumar Singh
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As the crackdown on Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh entered the third day amid an internet shutdown in Punjab, several Twitter accounts were withheld in India, including those belonging to a few journalists and Canadian author Rupi Kaur.

More than 100 suspects linked to the radical outfit have been held across the state so far with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Harjinder Singh Dhami asking the Aam Aadmi Party government not to target “innocent Sikh youths”. 

The Twitter accounts of Indian Express reporter Kamaldeep Singh Brar, Pro Punjab TV bureau chief Gagandeep Singh, independent journalist Sandeep Singh and digital activist Pieter Friedrich were withheld, as was Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh’s and SAD’s Sangrur MP Simranjeet Singh Mann’s.

The disclaimers at the bottom read that these accounts had “been withheld in India in response to a legal request”. However, according to sources, only one of the journalists received an email from Twitter notifying them of the action.

Newslaundry reached out to Twitter to inquire about what the legal demands were, who raised them, and for how long these accounts will be withheld. We have only received a turd emoji so far from Twitter’s press team – here’s why. This report will be updated as and when an actual response is received. 

Gagandeep’s account was withheld on Monday over a video he shared on social media, which purportedly showed the police chasing Amritpal, Newslaundry has learnt. The video was already widely circulated on social media before Gagandeep shared it.

Except one report, all the tweets and reports posted by Indian Express reporter Kamaldeep on Saturday pertained to the crackdown in Punjab. He did not post any update on Sunday. On Saturday morning, he tweeted a report on the SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami raising the issue of Sikh human rights while addressing G20 delegates in Punjab.  He posted two tweets along with Indian Express articles, and a Twitter thread pertaining to his report, all related to the crackdown in Punjab, on Saturday. 

In a tweet on the situation on Sunday, digital activist Pieter Friedrich said, “Whatever your opinion on Amritpal Singh, a man about whom I know very little, the mass crackdown on basic civil liberties in Punjab is a totalitarian nightmare. Internet & mobile services banned, assembly banned, media censorship. From Kashmir to Punjab, where is the Azadi?”

Internet and SMS services were suspended by the AAP government on Saturday. The suspension was initially extended till Monday noon, and again till Tuesday.

In the order extending the curbs on internet services on Monday, the department of home affairs and justice directed that all mobile internet services, SMS services, and all dongle services on mobile networks be suspended “in the interest of public safety, to prevent any incitement to violence and to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order”.

Jagmeet Singh had earlier called on Canada PM Justin Trudeau to contact the Indian government over the internet blackout and “suspended” civil liberties.

Rupi Kaur, meanwhile, had quote-tweeted a tweet by the World Sikh Organisation of Canada condemning the security operations in Punjab. She criticised the “mass arrests”, internet restrictions, and a history of “fake encounters” and “disappearances”. The World Sikh Organisation of Canada had tweeted to point to “fears” of extrajudicial killings.

According to Twitter, access may be withheld in certain countries based on a valid request from an authorised entity. Such actions may be limited to jurisdictions where the request had been made or the law has been violated.

While Amritpal’s arrest is yet to be confirmed, several channels claimed that he had been arrested on Saturday. India TV aired this “news” at 3.22pm, News24 at 3.40 pm, NDTV at 5.14 pm, and News India at 5.49 pm. ABP News also telecasted this update. Some posted corrections later on.

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