UP government gags employees from engaging on media platforms without permission

The move is being seen as a significant policy shift by the existing dispensation, executed with an intent to regulate the flow of information from government sources.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath
UP CM Yogi AdityanathFile Photo

LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh government issued a circular adding a new set of norms for state employees in connection with their engagement on media platforms, sparking a reaction from officers.

The circular issued by Additional Chief Secretary, Appointment and Personnel, Devesh Chaturvedi, on Wednesday, bars state employees from talking, posting or writing on government decisions on social media, print, electronic, digital or even broadcast media like radio without prior permission.

“The circular is an extension of the existing rules making it mandatory for the state government employees to seek prior official permission before engaging in any form of writing on print, digital media, telecast or broadcast media,” says an officer of the same department.

However, the move is being seen as a significant policy shift by the existing dispensation, executed with an intent to regulate the flow of information from government sources.

The circular mentions Section 3 (2) of the UP Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1956, saying that “every government employee will conduct himself according to trending specific and implicit government orders issued to regulate their behaviour and conduct.”

New provisions have been introduced with regard to newspapers and radio and criticism of the government, says a junior officer in the appointment and personnel department.

“Anyone found to be flouting the norms or even leaking crucial information from government circulars would attract strict action,” adds another officer.

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Under the new guidelines, any attempt to write articles, opinion pieces, or even commentaries in newspapers, magazines or digital platforms would now require prior permission from the authorities concerned in the state government. While a set of officials, seeking anonymity, compare it with a gag order, others try to explain the rationale saying it is to ensure that information disseminated by government employees and the policies of the state government are in sync to prevent the outflow of sensitive or conflicting information.

They claim that the directive is not an absolute gag on all forms of expression. Respecting the significance of an individual’s personal creative and intellectual rights, the circular has excluded artistic, literary and scientific articles written by employees from this restriction.

This exception allows government employees to continue contributing to cultural and scientific discourse without seeking prior approval, provided their writings do not peddle a political or administrative narrative.

“Restriction is on making any political post or one related to state government policies on social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp updates, ‘X’, Instagram, Telegram or any other form of digital media,” reasons a senior officer. Supporters of the guideline call it a necessary step to maintain the integrity and uniformity of governmental communication. “It will help prevent the spread of misinformation and ensure that all public communications are in tandem with the official line,” says a senior IAS officer.

Meanwhile, naysayers view it as another move to curb the freedom of expression. They believe that such measures would smother the thought process of those within the government and stop them from giving their fair and valuable opinion over policies.

“As the new norms bar government employees from writing even with pseudonyms, the move will discourage people from coming out with ideas for improvisation leading to a culture of silent compliance,” says a PCS officer.

“In light of these new regulations, government employees who really want to express their views on topics not confined to the realm of art, culture, science or literature, would have to submit their proposed pieces of writings for review and await official clearance before publication,” a senior official said.

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The New Indian Express