Journalist Prashant Kanojia was released from Lucknow jail this evening -- five days after he was arrested for allegedly "defaming" Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. His arrest -- along with four others on similar charges -- sparked a huge debate on social media over freedom of expression and drawn condemnation from many, including the Editors' Guild of India.
"I will read the Supreme Court order and then talk to the media. I have complete faith in the judiciary," Mr Kanojia told reporters as he walked out of prison.
Mr Kanojia was picked up from his home in Delhi on Saturday, after he tweeted a video of a woman who claimed on camera that she sent a marriage proposal to the Chief Minister. His wife Jagisha Arora had challenged the arrest in the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ordered that Mr Kanojia be immediately released, saying the fundamental right to liberty is "non-negotiable".
The top court had dismissed the contention of the state government, which said he was arrested not for his tweet on Yogi Adityanath but his older tweets that were "casteist".
"We may disapprove these tweets but we disapprove the denial of liberty," the top court said, adding, "Normally we don't entertain these type of petitions. But a person can't spend 11 days in jail".
The arrest triggered a huge political controversy, with opposition parties calling it "illegal and arbitrary".
Congress's Rahul Gandhi tweeted: "If every journalist who files a false report or peddles fake, vicious RSS/BJP sponsored propaganda about me is put in jail, most newspapers/ news channels would face a severe staff shortage. The UP CM is behaving foolishly & needs to release the arrested journalists."
The Editors' Guild had called it "an effort to intimidate the Press" and said the defamation law was being misused.
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