Arrest of Uttar Pradesh journalists shows disregard for rule of law by state: SAMDEN

New Delhi, 10 June 2019: The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) today joined calls by the Editor’s Guild of India, The Network of Women in Media, India, and journalists across the country demanding the release of three media professionals held in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly “maligning” the image of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath by sharing and broadcasting a video. 

Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist, and Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla, the editor and the head of ‘Nation Live’ TV news channel, were arrested for broadcasting a video that showed a woman speaking to reporters outside CM Adityanath’s office, claiming that she had sent him a marriage proposal. 

One of the two charges under which Mr. Kanojia was arrested– that of criminal defamation — cannot be used to make arrests without a magistrate’s order, SAMDEN pointed out. The other (“fraudulently/dishonestly damaging a computer system”, under Section 66 of the IT Act) does not fit the alleged “crime” since sharing a video online cannot possibly damage a computer. 

As others have noted, the Chief Minister should have been brought the issue to a magistrate’s attention should he have wished to press charges of criminal defamation. That the state police moved suo motu to arrest him appears to be a (mis)use of power in a move designed to penalise journalists. 

“These arrests indicate an alarming and arbitrary disregard for due legal process and we hope that the Uttar Pradesh government will heed the call by journalists and media organisations to release the three journalists and drop charges against them,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, SAMDEN Co-convener and CHRI International Director. 

CHRI has also drawn the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to the issue.  

Signed:

  • Kalpana Sharma, Independent journalist and author
  • Patricia Mukhim, Editor, Shillong Times
  • Rita Payne, Journalist and Media Adviser, President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association
  • Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, Deputy Editor, The Wire
  • Suhasini Haider, National Editor and Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu
  • Sujay Gupta, Independent Media Consultant
  • Kumar Lopez, CEO, Sri Lanka Press Institute
  • Apar Gupta, Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation 
  • Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist
  • Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, independent journalist, author and film-maker 
  • Kishore Bhargava, Technology Mentor, LinkAxis Technologies 
  • Sanjoy Hazarika, SAMDEN co-convener and CHRI International Director
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