The Editors Guild of India issued a statement today, condemning the arrest of a freelance journalist, an editor of a TV channel and its owner over alleged objectionable content related to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The Editors Guild described police action as an "authoritarian misuse of laws" and an effort to intimidate the press.
Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist, was arrested by the UP police in Delhi on Saturday for a tweet that had "objectionable comments" on Yogi Adityanath. On the same evening, the head of private television news and its editor were arrested in Noida for airing allegedly defamatory content, the police 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 Editor's Guild said in its statement.
Read the Editor's Guild's full statement below:
"The Editors Guild of India condemns the arrest of Noida-based journalist Prashant Kanojia and the editor and head of a NOIDA-based television channel, Nation Live - Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla- by the Uttar Pradesh government. Mr Kanojia has been accused of uploading a post on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the social media and the Nation Live head and editor have been charged with having aired a video on the UP chief minister. 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.
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 EGI also reiterates its demand that the defamation law should be decriminalised. The misuse of law in this specific case, as in Karnataka earlier, goes way beyond criminal defamation as many IT Act and Indian Penal Code provisions have been invoked in what looks like a motivated and vindictive action."