Editors Guild condemns arrest of journalists

Editors Guild condemns arrest of journalists

The Editors Guild Sunday condemned the arrest of ajournalist, and the editor and head of a television channel over allegedobjectionable content related to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,describing the police action as an "authoritarian misuse oflaws" and an effort to intimidate the press.

An FIR was registered against Noida based journalistPrashant Kanojia at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on Friday night inwhich it was alleged that the accused made "objectionable comments againstthe CM and tried to malign his image."

Kanojia had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where awoman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside theCM office claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to the CM.

While the editor and the head of a Noida-based televisionchannel, Nation Live – Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla- were arrested by the UttarPradesh government, the Guild said.

"The police action is high-handed, arbitrary andamounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws," the Guild said in astatement.

The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press andstifle freedom of expression, the statement said.

The FIR is based on the journalist sharing on Twitter thevideo of a woman claiming a "relationship" with the chief minister ofUttar Pradesh, it said.

The television channel had broadcast a video on the sameissue, the Guild said. 

"Whatever the accuracy of the woman's claims, toregister a case of criminal defamation against the journalists for sharing iton the social media and airing it on a television channel is a brazen misuse oflaw," the Guild statement said.

To give the police powers to arrest, provisions of Section66 of the IT Act have also been added, it said.

As with a recent case in Karnataka that the Guild spokeabout, the FIR in this case is also not filed by the person allegedly affectedbut suo motu by the police, the Guild noted.

"This is a condemnable misuse of law and statepower," the statement said.

The Editors Guild had demanded the withdrawal of the FIRagainst the editor of a Kannada daily and its editorial staff for publishing areport about trouble within former prime minister and JDS chief H D DeveGowda's family.

According to the complaint filed by Janata Dal (Secular)Karnataka secretary S P Pradeep Kumar, the newspaper, 'Vishwavani', hadpublished a "false report" on May 25, which created an impressionthat there was commotion and confusion among Gowda's grandchildren.

The editor, Vishweshwar Bhat, and the editorial staff werebooked on May 26 under Sections 499 (defamation), 406 (criminal breach oftrust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code.

The Guild also reiterated its demand that the defamation lawshould be decriminalised.

"The misuse of law in this specific case, as inKarnataka earlier, goes way beyond criminal defamation as many IT Act andIndian Penal Code provisions have been invoked in what looks like a motivatedand vindictive action," the Guild said.

The verified Twitter handle of Kanojia @PJkanojia said thathe is alumnus of IIMC and Mumbai university and is associated with some mediaorganisations.

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