NEW DELHI: Condemning the arrests of three journalists over alleged objectionable content related to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, the Editors Guild of India on Sunday described the police action as authoritarian misuse of laws.
Noida-based journalist Prashant Kanojia had shared a video where a woman speaks to reporters outside the CM’s office, claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Adityanath.
An FIR was registered against Kanojia at Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station on Friday night in which it was alleged that the accused made objectionable comments against the CM and tried to malign his image. Later, two more journalists were also arrested.
“The Editors Guild of India condemns the arrest of Noida-based journalist Prashant Kanojia and the editor and the head of a Noida-based television channel, Nation Live — Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla — by the Uttar Pradesh government,” the Guild said, adding that the police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws.
Singh and Shukla were sent to 14-day judicial custody by a local court.
The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression, the statement 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.”To give the police powers to arrest, the provisions of Section 66 of the IT Act were added, it said.
Other media associations have demanded that the UP government should reconsider and withdraw the criminal defamation charges.
According to legal experts, criminal defamation under Section 500 of IPC is a non-cognizable offence, meaning that the police cannot take direct cognizance of it by registering an FIR.
Action for criminal defamation can be taken only on a private complaint filed before a magistrate. Secondly, Section 66 of the IT Act, though a cognizable offence, has no application as it deals with fraudulently/dishonestly damaging a computer system.
The police had added two more penal provisions — Section 505 and Section 67 — to its FIR. But, legal experts asserted these sections also does not justify the arrests of the journalists.