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Kerala passes ordinance to criminalise online defamation and ‘humiliation’

Photo showing a laptop, a book and a smartphone chained under lock and key. Censorship.

Update: Shortly after this article's publication, the Kerala government reversed its decision. You can read about the withdrawal of the ordinance here. The governor of Kerala on Saturday passed an ordinance to criminalise defamation online, with jail time and/or fines for offenders who publish or disseminate such content. The state government had announced its intent to do this last month. The bilingual ordinance, published in the Kerala Gazette, amends the state's Police Act to make posting defamatory or "humiliating" content online an offence that could attract three years of imprisonment and/or a ₹10,000 fine. The move was criticised by civil society as an attack on freedom of expression, and LiveLaw reports that two challenges to the ordinance, will be heard as soon as Tuesday. "Whoever makes, expresses, publishes or disseminates through any kind of mode of communication, any matter or subject for threatening, abusing, humiliating or defaming a person or class of persons, knowing it to be false and that causes injury to the mind, reputation or property of such person or class of persons or any other person in whom they have interest shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both." — The Kerala Police (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 While the ordinance seems to be a result of a high-profile case involving a YouTuber's sexist comments made recently, its overbroad language could result in things like satire — and the…

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