The Network of Women in Media, India condemns the arrest of Prashant Kanojia, Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla.
Prashant Kanojia is an independent journalist, arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police for allegedly tweeting critical posts against Yogi Adityanath, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. The police have claimed that the tweets -which relate to a woman making allegations about Adityanath- ‘malign the image’ of Adityanath.
On June 8, 2019, Prashant was picked up from his house in Delhi by police in plain clothes and taken to Lucknow. He was initially charged under Section 500 and Section 66 of the IT Act. No warrant was presented at this time. Later, more charges were added.
UP police also arrested Ishita Singh, head of Nation Live, a Noida-based channel and one of its editors Anuj Shukla, for airing footage of the woman making claims about Yogi Adityanath, and allegedly propagating defamatory content.
The police issued a warning in a press release the same evening asking people not ‘to write things on social media that disturb the law and order.’ Equating criticism of the chief minister with disturbing law and order is totally contrary to freedom of expression in a democracy.
The fact that the three were picked up on a weekend when courts are shut and the procedure to get bail becomes difficult, is a clear indicator that the police’s intention is to harass them further, thereby denying them access to justice.
The above arrests are a serious clampdown on not just their fundamental rights but also the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression. They are also an indicator that the UP government is intolerant of dissent and selective in addressing crimes.
The arrests of the three journalists once again raise major concerns over the blatant subversion of the system of law enforcement and selective use of laws despite the fact that press freedom has been recognised as part of freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution. In India, journalists are increasingly becoming victims of arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, and harassment.
These arrests also demonstrate the lack of political will to create a climate for free expression and tolerance of dissenting views. This is a blatant attempt to promote self-censorship, as it could act as a deterrent to journalists from speaking truth to power.
- Immediate release of Prashant Kanojia, Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla
- Dropping of all charges against them
- A credible investigation into the misuse of laws against journalists
The Network of Women in Media, India