A screenshot of Gaon Savera's X account on August 23, 2023, says, "Account Withheld."
A screenshot of Gaon Savera's X account on August 23, 2023, says, "Account Withheld." (Photo Gaon Savera)

India blocks social media accounts of Gaon Savera news outlet ahead of workers’ convention

New Delhi, August 23, 2023—Authorities in India must immediately unblock the social media accounts of the independent news website Gaon Savera, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On Monday, August 21, Gaon Savera’s Facebook page became inaccessible in India, and its account on X, formerly known as Twitter, was also blocked the following day, according to news reports and Mandeep Punia, editor of Gaon Savera, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

On Tuesday, August 22, Gaon Savera received an email from X, reviewed by CPJ, stating that the account had been withheld in response to a legal demand by the Indian government under the Information Technology Act. Gaon Savera did not receive a notice from Meta, which owns Facebook, or the Indian government, Punia said.

CPJ was able to access the outlet’s social media pages from the United States.

The previous week, the website and social media accounts of the independent online news magazine The Kashmir Walla were blocked in India.

“The Indian government’s arbitrary ban on Gaon Savera’s social media accounts, within days of blocking The Kashmir Walla’s website and social media accounts, marks a disturbing new trend of censorship in India,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Kuala Lumpur. “The Indian government must stop targeting independent news publications and allow Gaon Savera to report without interference.”

A screenshot of Gaon Savera's Facebook page on August 23, 2023, says, "This content isn't available at the moment."
A screenshot of Gaon Savera’s Facebook page on August 23, 2023, says, “This content isn’t available at the moment.” (Photo Gaon Savera)

Some articles on the site of Gaon Savera, which covers grassroots people’s movements in the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, have disappeared, Punia told CPJ, adding that the outlet’s technical team was investigating.

Punia told CPJ that he suspected that the censorship was in response to Gaon Savera’s coverage of ongoing farmer protests in Punjab and Haryana ahead of a national convention of workers in Delhi on August 24.

Punia was arrested while reporting on farmers’ protests as a freelancer in January 2021 and detained for four days.

Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.