Editors Guild described the police action as an “authoritarian misuse of laws” and an effort to intimidate the press.
NEW DELHI — The Editors Guild on Sunday condemned the arrest of a journalist, and the editor and head of a television channel over alleged objectionable content related to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, describing the police action as an “authoritarian misuse of laws” and an effort to intimidate the press.
Prashant Kanojia had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the CM office claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to the CM.
While the editor and the head of a Noida-based television channel, Nation Live – Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla – were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh government, the Guild said.
“The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws,” the Guild said in a statement.
The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression, the statement said.
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, it said.
The television channel had broadcast a video on the same issue, the Guild said.
“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,” the Guild statement 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, the Guild noted.
“This is a condemnable misuse of law and state power,” the statement said.
The Editors Guild had demanded the withdrawal of the FIR against the editor of a 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.
Meanwhile, The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) condemns the arrest of Prashant Kanojia, Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla and called it serious clampdown on not just their fundamental rights but also the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression.
On June 8, 2019, Prashant was picked up from his house in Delhi by police in plain clothes and taken to Lucknow. He was initially charged under Section 500 IPC and Section 66 of the IT Act. No warrant was presented at this time. Later, more charges were added.
UP police also arrested Ishita Singh, head of Nation Live, a Noida-based channel and one of its editors Anuj Shukla, for airing footage of the woman making claims about Yogi Adityanath, and allegedly propagating defamatory content.
The police issued a warning in a press release the same evening asking people not ‘to write things on social media that disturb the law and order.’ Equating criticism of the chief minister with disturbing law and order is totally contrary to freedom of expression in a democracy, the NWMI wrote on its website nwmindia.org.
The fact that the three were picked up on a weekend when courts are shut and the procedure to get bail becomes difficult, is a clear indicator that the police’s intention is to harass them further, thereby denying them access to justice, said the Network of Women.
The above arrests are a serious clampdown on not just their fundamental rights but also the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression. They are also an indicator that the UP government is intolerant of dissent and selective in addressing crimes, the NWMI said.
These arrests also demonstrate the lack of political will to create a climate for free expression and tolerance of dissenting views. This is a blatant attempt to promote self-censorship, as it could act as a deterrent to journalists from speaking truth to power.
The NWMI demanded:
- Immediate release of Prashant Kanojia, Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla
- Dropping of all charges against them
- A credible investigation into the misuse of laws against journalists
(With inputs from PTI)