The Editors Guild 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.
An FIR was registered against Noida based journalist Prashant Kanojia at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on Friday night in which it was alleged that the accused made “objectionable comments against the CM and tried to malign his image.”
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.
To give the police powers to arrest, provisions of Section 66 of the IT Act have also been added, it 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.
According to the complaint filed by Janata Dal (Secular) Karnataka secretary S P Pradeep Kumar, the newspaper, ‘Vishwavani’, had published a “false report” on May 25, which created an impression that there was commotion and confusion among Gowda’s grandchildren.
The editor, Vishweshwar Bhat, and the editorial staff were booked on May 26 under Sections 499 (defamation), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Guild also reiterated 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,” the Guild said.
The verified Twitter handle of Kanojia @PJkanojia said that he is alumnus of IIMC and Mumbai university and is associated with some media organisations.