The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) on Wednesday, 21 October, wrote a joint letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to take “immediate steps to ensure that journalists can work without harassment and fear of reprisal,” reported The Indian Express.
“We also call on you to direct the state governments to drop all charges against journalists, including those under the draconian sedition laws, that have been imposed on them for their work,” the letter stated.
This comes after a “number of cases filed against journalists have increased enormously after the spread of the pandemic,” the letter stated.
Expressing concern over the recent arrest of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, who was detained by the UP police earlier this month, while he was going to Hathras for ground reporting. Kappan has been charged with sedition and Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which pertains to punishment for raising funds for a terrorist act.
"“Over the past few months, a number of journalists have been charged under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which punishes sedition with three years to life in prison. Section 124A states that those who by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India could be punished with life imprisonment or for a period of three years in prison.”" - Letter written by IFJ and IPI
The media body also said that the use of sedition laws to harass independent, critical journalists is not only a gross violation of the country’s international commitments, it is also an attempt by the government to silence any criticism.
“Journalistic work cannot be equated to sedition or undermining security,” the letter further states.
As many as 55 journalists were targeted for covering the pandemic in India between 25 March, when the lockdown was first imposed, and 31 May, a report by Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) has shown, the letter noted.
Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India on Wednesday, 21 October, also condemned the Delhi Police’s attack on The Caravan magazine’s journalist Ahan Penkar last week, while he was carrying out his duty as a member of the press. Penkar was reporting on the alleged rape and murder of a teenaged Dalit girl in North Delhi.
(With inputs from Hindu, IFJ and IPI)
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