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Concern over sedition charges against journalists in India

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VIENNA,  22 October 2020 (Media Report):  The Interna­tional Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a global federation of national journalists’ unions and associations, have expressed grave concern over the increasing use of sedition charges against journalists in India.

In a letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two global associations said that 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.

They recalled that on 5 October, a Kerala-based journalist, Siddique Kappan, who was trying to reach the family of a rape victim in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, was arrested and charged with sedition. On 6 Oct, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists filed a habeas corpus petition against the arrest of MrKappan, who was the union’s Delhi unit Secretary.

Similarly, they said, in May, Dhaval Patel, editor and owner of a Gujarati news portal, ‘Face of Nation’, was charged with sedition and detained by the police for publishing a report that suggested that the political leadership in the state would change. He was also accused of spreading false panic under Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act. The Editors’ Guild of India raised the issue in a statement on 13 May, expressing concern over the misuse of special laws, besides sedition and IPC.

Chhattisgarh police filed a sedition case against Kamal Shukla, editor of Bhumkal Samachar, for sharing a cartoon on Facebook that referred to the Supreme Court’s decision to reject petitions calling for an independent investigation into the mysterious death of special Central Bureau of Investiga­tion judge Brijgopal Loya in 2014. The case was brought to the attention of the authorities by the NUJ (I) and IJU.

In another case, the associations said, noted journalist Vinod Dua was charged with sedition by the Himachal Pradesh police. The case was registered against Mr Dua for his YouTube broadcast blaming the government for its Covid-19 preparedness and making personal allegations against Prime Minister Modi.

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