The Editors Guild on Sunday condemned the arrest of a journalist and the editor and the head of a news channel by the Uttar Pradesh government, calling it a “brazen misuse of law” and an “effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression”.
An FIR was lodged against freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia for posting “objectionable” content against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The journalist had allegedly uploaded a video on Twitter in which a woman is heard making some claims about Adityanath. Kanojia had posted a comment with the video.
Besides Kanojia, Ishita Singh, head of Nation Live and one of its editors Anuj Shukla were also arrested for broadcasting the content and allegedly propagating defamatory content.
Taking note of the government’s actions, the Editors Guild, in a statement, said, “The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws. The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression.”
“The FIR is based on the journalist sharing on Twitter the video of a woman claiming a “relationship” with the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The television channel had broadcast a video on the same issue. Whatever the accuracy of the woman’s claims, to register a case of criminal defamation against the journalists for sharing it on the social media and airing it on a television channel is a brazen misuse of law. To give the police powers to arrest, provisions of Section 66 of the IT Act have also been added,” the statement read.
While referring to a recent case in which an FIR has been registered against the editor of a Kannada daily, the Guild said, “As with a recent case in Karnataka that the Guild spoke about, the FIR in this case is also not filed by the person allegedly affected but suo motu by the police. This is a condemnable misuse of law and state power.”
The organisation had earlier demanded the withdrawal of the FIR against the editor of the Kannada daily and its editorial staff for publishing a report about trouble within former prime minister and JDS chief H D Deve Gowda’s family.
‘Illegal and arbitrary’: Congress
Meanwhile, the Congress urged the Allahabad High Court to take suo motu cognizance of the matter. Terming the arrests as “illegal and arbitrary”, Congress leader and senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted, “The detention of Prashant Kanojia for merely posting a video which fell foul of actors of State government is illegal, arbitrary and a grave miscarriage of justice. Would request the Allahabad High Court to take suo Motu cognizance of the matter.”