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Indian Government Blocks Access to Pakistan-Based Streaming Platform

A web series titled 'Sevak: The Confessions' caught the eye of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has yet again invoked its emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021.

What's the news: Four social media accounts, two mobile apps, one smart TV app, and a website – all belonging to Pakistan-based OTT platform Vidly TV – have been blocked, according to government-run channel Doordarshan News.

Cause of action: The ministry found that a web series on Vidly TV called Sevak: The Confessions was “detrimental to national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, and public order in the country,” as per DD News.

  • Three episodes of the series were out so far

  • Episode 1 dropped on the anniversary of 26/11 – the deadly terror attack in Mumbai.

Why it matters: Sevak has been blocked in India on the ministry’s suspicion that it was “sponsored by the Pakistan information operations apparatus.”

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Content with an agenda? Sharing purported screenshots from the web series, the ministry alleged that Sevak was being used to promote hatred against Indians, manipulate India’s Sikh community, and distort past events like the Babri Masjid demolition and Operation Blue Star.

  • 01/05

    Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.</p></div>
  • 02/05

    Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.</p></div>
  • 03/05

    Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.</p></div>
  • 04/05

    Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.</p></div>
  • 05/05

    Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Screengrabs from Sevak, which the Indian government says has been used to promote hatred against Indians.</p></div>
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Some legal context: The ministry can block any digital content at the time of an “emergency”, that is when “no delay is acceptable”, as per Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 

  • The IT Rules have been challenged before various high courts. 

  • Bombay High Court has stayed certain provisions of the Rules as it could have a “chilling effect” on online news publishers like The Quint.

Yes, but: The court refused to stay Rule 16 since it found that the grounds were in line with the grounds on which speech may be ‘reasonably restricted’ under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. 

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