RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: Making report on paid news public

The CIC directed the PIO to provide copy of the two-member committee report on paid news and publish the same on the website of the Press Council of India. This is the 116th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) at the Press Council of India to provide as well as publish on its website a copy of the report submitted by two-member sub-committee of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K Sreenivas Reddy set up to probe the paid news saga.


While giving this judgement on 19 September 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, “PIO had refused to disclose this information without giving any of the exemption clauses under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The PIO should ensure that the report is placed on the website of the Council before 10 October 2011.”


New Delhi resident Manu Moudgil, on 3 January 2011, sought copy of the report submitted by two-member sub-committee of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K Sreenivas Reddy set up to probe the phenomenon of paid news from the CPIO. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act and the reply provided by the CPIO...


1. Please provide a copy of the report submitted by two member sub-committee of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K Sreenivas Reddy to probe the phenomenon of paid news          

CPIO Reply: In this connection kindly refer to the foot note of final report of council (copy attached) which reads as follows:

“the Council decided that the report of the sub-committee may remain on record of the council as reference document”

With a view to facilitate providing copy of the said report, legal opinion has been sought on 7.09.2010.on the receipt of the same, the Secretariat would consider providing it to the general public/RTI applicants.


2. Please provide details of the meeting held on 30 July 2010 to discuss the issue of paid news, provide copy of the minutes of the meeting and any other documents detailing the proceedings of the meeting.      

CPIO Reply: Extracts of the minutes of the Council meeting held on 30.07.2010 are attached  (Annexure - A)


3. Please provide details of written or electronic communication received or send on the issue of the sub committee's report. Please provide copies of the same.   

CPIO Reply: Index of relevant documents is attached. (Annexure - B)


4. The undersigned would, at his discretion, also like to inspect all the records (both electronic and paper records), documents/letters, communication, notes, books, books of accounts, voucher, etc, which are relied on by your department and/or on the basis of which the information to the above mentioned request is supplied/to be provided. Kindly provide the working hours of your office and the name, contact details and exact location of the record officer/other officials in whose custody the said records are available ad can be inspected.     

CPIO Reply: The working hours of the office are 9.30am-6.00pm. You may visit any working day, preferably with prior appointment at Phone No. 24366745 - 46-47 Extn. 320 with Assistant Public Information Officer to facilitate inspection of required documents. The address of the office is given on the letter head.


Not satisfied with the CPIO's reply, Moudgil filed his first appeal in which he contended that the said report was a public document and should be made available to the general public and under the RTI Act. 


In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) reiterated the reply of the CPIO. He said, “...legal opinion on the report of the sub-committee on paid news has not been received so far. On the receipt of the same, the Secretariat would consider providing it to the general public/RTI applicants.”


Moudgil, then approached the Commission. In his second appeal, he reiterated that the said report was a public document and should be made available to the general public and under the RTI Act. In addition, more than seven months has lapsed since the date of seeking legal opinion i.e. 7 September 2010, he said.


During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, noted that the PIO had refused to disclose this information without giving any of the exemption clauses under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. "The PIO appears to have felt since the decision had not been taken in the matter the report could not be provided. Right to Information is a fundamental right of citizens and if what is sought is information as defined under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act which is held by the public authority, denial can only be on the basis that the information is exempt under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act," he said.


The PIO stated that on 14 September 2011 she had sent a letter to the appellant stating that the 71 pages report could be provided on payment of additional fee of Rs142.


Moudgil stated that he had not received this letter and demanded that the reports should be provided free of cost to him and also this should be put up on the website under Section 4 of the RTI Act.


Mr Gandhi said, this was a reasonable demand. The Commission using its power under Section 19(8)(a)(iii) directed the PIO to ensure that the report is placed on the website of the Council before 10 October 2011. This would be in fulfilment of its obligation under Section 4(1)(b)(xvii) of the RTI Act, the CIC said in its order.


While allowing the complaint, the CIC also directed the PIO to ensure that an attested copy of the report is sent to the complainant before 30 September 2011.




Decision No. CIC/AD/C/2011/000989/SG/14680


Appeal No. CIC/AD/C/2011/000989/SG



Complainant                                                : Manu Moudgil

                                                            New Delhi - 110 078


Respondents                                               : Punam Sibbal

                                                            PIO & Dy. Secretary

                                                            Press Council of India,

                                                            Soochna Bhawan, 8 CGO Complex,

                                                          Lodhi Road, New Delhi - 110 003


A buyer’s guide to safer communication

There are a lot of ways to talk to people securely on the internet, including some that are purpose-built to enhance your privacy and security. Here's a guide to getting started

This is part two of a two-part series. Here’s part one: Worried about the Mass Surveillance? How to Practice Safer Communication.

"Encryption works." --Edward Snowden

What makes choosing good security tools hard is that despite the news, we don’t know what government agencies like the NSA are really doing on their wiretaps and with their court orders. People in the security community call the NSA the “ultimate adversary,” and point to a huge array of ways they could be analyzing and attacking every part of the net and telephony system. They could be able to decrypt everything, and even without breaking encryption, they could be able to look at enough of the internet to determine who is talking to whom just by looking at the timing of conversation. But on the other hand, they might not be able to do any of that, and are trying to project the image of data omniscience to discourage people from even trying to protect their privacy. Parts of the NSA could be pretending to be able to do things it can’t while other parts are doing things more invasive than anyone knows, hidden from oversight. In the end, our questions still exceed our answers, and even the parts we think we know keep changing. The NSA's data collection is a story that will only make sense in hindsight, and we don't know how far from now that perspective is.

While Americans get to have a conversation with their government about whether this is right or wrong, the 95% of the planet the NSA is allowed to surveil without further scrutiny doesn’t get to weigh in at all, nor do the people living in countries whose governments practice widespread Internet surveillance and censorship. That’s billions of people for whom choosing tools for protecting their privacy on the net is simply a question about the technology, not about the law.

The good news is that as we understand more about how surveillance works, it helps the people who create and use secure tools to make better and more informed choices -- even if that choice is simply not minding having their data collected.

There are a lot of ways to talk to people securely on the internet, some are purpose-built to enhance your privacy and security. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start.

We’ll keep filling out this list over the next few days, so if there’s a piece of software you want us to have a look at, mention them in the comments or e-mail them to us at [email protected].



What does it let you do? Cryptocat is a web-based encrypted text chat for two or more people.

Cryptocat heads up this list of tools because it stands out for good interface and good policies. It's the easiest tool on this list to use, and Cryptocat's creator is transparent about how the software handles your data: It goes through a server run by Cryptocat’s creator, Nadim Kobeissi. Kobeissi wrote a blog post with a table explaining who can see your metadata and messages when you use the service.

To get it, go to crypto.cat, and download the browser plugin. Mac users can also find it as a standalone program in Apple’s App Store. After that, you pick a name for the chatroom and for yourself. Share the chatroom name with whoever you want to talk to, and start chatting. It is hands-down the easiest way to get started with end-to-end encryption, where only you and the person you're talking to can see the message. For more on what end-to-end means, see part one.

What does it replace? Cryptocat replaces unencrypted instant messaging and chatrooms, and has some Facebook- and Google-style group coordination features. It’s sometimes the only option when you don’t have the ability to install software on the computer you’re using.

Cryptocat, like all the tools on this list, go through a third party server. This means the communication is more like making a phone call, (which goes through the phone company) than talking on walkie talkies (which go directly to the other party). All of Cryptocat is Open Source, so if you are up for more of a challenge, you can run a server inside your own network, and your Cryptocat chats, in addition to being end-to-end encrypted, never traverse the open Internet.

This chart covers the kind of information we should all have access to about the software we use. It would be fantastic to see more projects and companies follow Cryptocat’s lead, and tell their users who can see their data.

Jabber with OTR

(PC, iOS, Android)

What does it let you do? Jabber, also called XMPP (thanks for another great name, computer scientists!), isn’t a specific program or service. It’s a protocol, which is a term for an established procedure for doing something on the net. In particular, Jabber is a protocol for text-based chat, also called Instant Messaging, between two people.

OTR (“Off the Record”) is a plug-in that encrypts text chat content so that only you and the person you’re corresponding with can read it.

“Only the actual content of your messages is encrypted with OTR, but usually the XMPP channel is secured with SSL as well,” says Chris Ballinger, creator of Chatsecure, a Jabber client for iOS devices. Ballinger listed some of the metadata that is visible if your service doesn’t use SSL, which is separate from OTR message encryption. (Again, see part one for details.) Ballinger's list included:

  • When you started or stopped typing
  • Your availability
  • Your status messages
  • When you send or received a message
  • The sender and recipient of each message (full Jabber ID)
  • Your buddy list
  • A constant stream of your buddies status updates.

What does it replace? It can replace SMS on phones, or IM and Facebook Chat online. Unlike proprietary services like Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts, Jabber lets you talk to anyone who also speaks Jabber, even if they’re not using the same service you are.

The Jabber protocol isn’t itself secure or private, though most Jabber services will use SSL to encrypt your traffic. With OTR, which is built into some clients and is a separate add-on for others, you can encrypt your messages so that even the Jabber server can’t read them; only the person you’re talking to can. OTR is one of the easiest forms of encryption. All you need is an OTR-capable chat program.

OTR-encrypted IM is reportedly the way Edward Snowden initially corresponded with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Jabber Clients

Chatsecure for iOS Devices

By default, Chatsecure tries to use SSL to talk to your Jabber server, but it can switch off SSL. The advanced options allow you to "Force TLS," which is another name for SSL.

Gibberbot for Android devices

The creator of Gibberbot, the Guardian Project, specifically makes software for people who need security. Using the software can be difficult, but it doesn’t let you make too many mistakes. Gibberbot won’t connect to a server without using SSL. Gibberbot can also be used with Tor, which we’ll come to in a bit.

Pidgin for Windows/Linux; Adium for Mac OS X

You download Pidgin for Windows and Linux from pidgin.im and Adium for Mac OS X from adium.im.

While they’re easy to use and also interoperate well with services like Facebook Chat and AIM as well as Jabber, these programs might not be secure by default, so you should check your settings. In both of them you have to hunt through menus to “edit” or “modify” your Jabber account. On Pidgin, SSL is under the “Advanced” menu as "Require encryption" inside the accounts screen and may already be enabled. On Adium, it’s under “Options” as "Require SSL/TLS." You have to enable SSL to be sure you're using it.

You’ll also want to make absolutely sure that logging is turned off, as logs are stored on your computer unencrypted. Also, in some cases, like Pidgin your Jabber password is stored in a plain text file on your computer. This is why if you're a target, (which this tutorial assumes you are not) your computer is often your weakest point, not your communications.

A Note on Jabber Services

If you want to use the Jabber protocol you need to use a service that supports it. There are a lot of Jabber services out there, some better than others. Services like Dukgo.com and Jabber.ccc.de(in German) have explicit policies about when they do and don’t cooperate with governments. Jabber gains some of its privacy protections from being decentralized (as opposed to, say, Google, AOL, Facebook, etc.) but that puts more burden on you to research your provider. XMPP.net maintains a list of Jabber servers that are open to use, listing their jurisdiction and what SSL certificate they use. It’s a good starting point, but it’s up to you to look at a prospective service’s website or ask them about their privacy policy.

Silent Circle

(PC, iOS, Android)

What does it let you do? Silent Circle is a commercial service that lets you text chat and make calls over your phone and video chat on Windows with end-to-end encryption and SSL.

Silent Circle has the benefit of being purpose-built for security, and a lot of thought has gone into its design, making it easy to use. It’s got some drawbacks: It’s centralized, it’s closed-source and it costs money, which means the people running it need to know your real identity for you to use it. At the cheapest level, Silent Circle can be had right now for $10 a month with an annual subscription. You can only use some features with other Silent Circle subscribers.

What does it replace? Silent Circle replaces regular phone calls and text messages, and Skype for Windows. (Other operating systems are under development at this time)

Using a service like Silent Circle exposes one very important piece of data: That you are someone concerned enough about security to pay for it. That bit of consumer behavior that sends a strong political message, but it may also give the impression to attackers, state or otherwise, that you feel you have something worth attacking -- more so than the other services listed here.

Silent Circle also has an email offering, but like all encrypted email, it leaks metadata.


(PC, iOS, Android)

What does it let you do? Tor does one simple and important thing: It hides your IP address.

Tor is completely separate from encryption. It doesn’t encrypt your metadata on the Internet via SSL. It doesn’t know whether or not you’re encrypting your messages. But your IP address is one of the hardest to mask and most personally identifying pieces of metadata there is on the net. As a result, Tor is used for anonymous speech and censorship evasion around the world. How Tor works.

What does it replace? Services called VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, hide your IP and data from the wider internet by passing it through a encrypted private network. Tor duplicates one function of a VPN, but in a decentralized way. Rather than a single encrypted private network, Tor piggybacks your internet connection through a bunch of network connections run by volunteers. As far as the experts know, nobody can reliably record all Tor traffic, nor know the real origin of any internet connection.

Tor is the hardest tool to use on this list, but what it does is very powerful. Be prepared to give this one a little time. There's plenty of documentation to help you along.

Tor Clients

The Tor Browser Bundle for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux

The Tor browser bundle makes using Tor much easier. It comes with the Tor system, called Vidalia, and a Tor browser (based on Firefox) set up to use it. You can put Vidalia together with any other application on this list to hide your IP, even from the service you’re using.

Orbot and Orweb for Android

Orbot is the Guardian Project’s cellphone-sized version of Vidalia. Orweb is a Tor browser for your phone. Orbot can route any Android application with options for setting a “proxy server” through Tor, hiding your IP. For instance, it works with the Twitter app. Despite the first message you see, you don’t have to “root” your phone to use it; ignore that message.

The Onion Browser for iOS

Onion Browser is a Tor-powered web browser for iOS devices, written by Mike Tigas, who currently works at ProPublica as its Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow. Onion Browser allows you to use the web over Tor without having to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad. Like Tor Browser Bundle and Orweb, your traffic is encrypted and anonymized. Unlike the others, Onion Browser is a standalone app and cannot proxy traffic for other apps on your device.

So Many Tools, So Little Room.

There are many tools we haven't discussed here. Some, like Jitsi (Voice-Over-IP audio and video calls), because it's still too hard for the average user. Others, like PGP for email, because it doesn't address the issue of mass metadata surveillance that is the focus of this article. And still others, like Wickr for iOS, because I just don’t have the room. But you can have fun with it: These services and many other out there do a great job of encrypting your messages and your metadata, and put you back in control of who gets to watch you on your networks.

This can all seem overwhelming, but learning even one tool makes the next one much easier to understand conceptually. These tools will get easier for everyone with time and development. The internet has, throughout its history, responded to threats by toughening up; threats change and the Internet evolves with it. It’s an ecology as much as a network, a wild place, sometimes a forest, sometimes a swamp. It’s early days, but the internet is where we live more and more of our lives, and as we get a sense of it, living there safely will become a normal part of life.

“The news this week makes a lot of people feel helpless,” said Abel Luck, one of the Guardian Project developers. “There’s a war on privacy on, and every time you use a bit of cryptography, you’re winning.”

Computer designed by Anton Outkine from The Noun Project


Nasscom concerned about US immigration bill

The Bill being pushed by the Obama administration gives the domestic IT professionals in the US a 60-day period to find a new job after they lose the existing one, among several other sweeping reforms


Software services industry body Nasscom today raised concerns over proposed discriminatory restrictions in the draft US Immigration Bill.

“Surely, we have got huge concerns on the restrictions that are being proposed in the Senate Bill. There is discrimination because it is based on visa dependent companies versus non-visa dependent companies.” Nasscom president Som Mittal told reporters.

He said “it puts restrictions on our ability to service our customers and prevents our ability to have a level-playing competition in the US”.

Mittal said the restrictions would have a major impact on US corporations served by Indian IT companies, because of which the first impact would be on the US economy and customers there. “So, it is the US corporations who are actually batting for us,” Mittal added.

Officially called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Act, 2013, the Bill being pushed by the Obama administration gives the domestic IT professionals in the US a 60-day period to find a new job after they lose the existing one, among several other sweeping reforms.

Out of the $108-billion software exports from the country, as much as $46 billion comes from the US alone for most of the domestic IT companies. These companies will also have to shell out more fees to get H-1B visas, if the draft legislation is cleared by the Congress and is signed into law by Obama.

To a query on whether the Indian government and IT companies were lobbying on the issue with the US government, he said, “Whether it is our customers (in the US) or whether it is our own government or Nasscom, we are all ensuring that we provide these perspectives to the decision makers there“.

“Our Ambassador (Nirupama Rao) is actively working (on this issue). Government of India at the senior levels have written to their counterparts in US. I don’t think any country wants discriminatory bills to come in. They do not want this to become a trade issue”, he said.

Mittal said Indians working in the US for several IT companies have contributed more than $15 billion in taxes and social security in the last five years.

“So we are creating jobs there as well. We have to ensure during the negotiations (before passing the bill), negative provisions do not come. Our hope is on the process of legislation in the US. That’s the way democracy works“.


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