Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday attacked the Uttar Pradesh government for arresting a journalist for sharing an alleged objectionable post against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. By taking action against the journalist, Mr Yadav said, the government was snatching away people's freedom to express on social media.
"Arresting journalists is a step towards destroying Constitutional structure. We already know that people at the helm of power want TV channels and news papers to say what they want them to, but now they are even snatching away the freedom of social media. In this time of adversity, we stand with the fourth pillar of democracy," Mr Yadav tweeted in Hindi.
Five people, including journalist Prashant Kanojia, have been arrested in two days on charges of posting allegedly objectionable content about the Chief Minister. The arrests over the weekend have sparked a huge debate on social media on freedom of expression in the country, with the Editors Guild of India condemning the journalists' arrests.
The Supreme Court today ordered the UP administration to immediately release the journalist, as the right to liberty, a fundamental right, was non-negotiable. The court, however, clarified that the order must not be construed as an approval of tweets.
Mr Kanojia, was picked up from his home in Delhi after a complaint by a police officer in Lucknow, alleging he tried to "malign" Yogi Adityanath's image. He had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside Yogi Adityanath's office, claiming that she had sent him a marriage proposal.
Uttar Pradesh Minister Shrikant Sharma, meanwhile, has justified the arrest. "In a democracy, constructive criticism is allowed, but hatching a conspiracy to malign someone using false allegations has no place (in the democracy). The attempt to malign UP CM was indecent. The law would take its own course against this act," he tweeted in Hindi.