Caught in the Net

BY Seetha| IN Media Practice | 22/03/2007
A corporate espionage case has thrown the spotlight on whether the media can use material that has been illegally accessed from a computer.


Can journalists face prosecution ? or be investigated ? under the Information Technology Act, 2001, if they use material that has been illegally accessed from a computer and e-mailed to them by someone else?

That is the question the media face in the wake of a corporate espionage scandal involving the Tata-run Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) and Reliance Communications. And there are no clear answers, with lawyers divided on the issue.

A few journalists were questioned in the course of police investigations into the espionage case, which revolves around allegations that a VSNL employee passed on sensitive and confidential information about the company to an official of Reliance Communications, over e-mail, through pen drives as well as printouts. The police have charged him with hacking under the IT Act and also questioned the Reliance Communications official.

With corporate battles increasingly being played out through the media ? rival companies tend to leak information on each other to journalists ? the case is a wake-up call for journalists. Here┬┐s why. The journalists were questioned because they had written reports based on the leaked information and the police suspected that the Reliance official had passed this on to them, by e-mailing it. The journalists, when asked where they got the information from, took shelter behind the need to protect sources. The argument was accepted, but it was, say experts, a close shave.

Read on here.


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