The Chief Minister Uttar Pradesh,
"A citizen's right to liberty has been infringed. We have gone through the records. Opinions may vary. This sort of thing should not have been published. But why arrest?" -- Supreme Court of India
Journalist Prashant Kanojia was arrested on June 7th for ‘maligning’ the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath on Twitter. The journalist posted a video of a woman where she is seen speaking to various media claiming to have sent a marriage proposal to the Chief Minister. This act of putting the journalist behind bars is high-handed, illegal and undermines freedom of speech in a democratic setup.
The journalist was picked after ‘questioning’ by policemen in plainclothes after a complaint by a sub-inspector in Lucknow's Hazratganj Police Station and is now in Lucknow Police Station. Along with Prashant, the editor and head of a NOIDA-based television channel, Nation Live - Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla have also been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh government. It is believed that Mr. Kanojia’s wife has been arrested as well.
The journalist has been charged under Sections 500 (defamation) and 505 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act. However, Section 505 – relating to spreading rumours and “public mischief” – comes with an important exception. The law says:
It does not amount to an offence, within the meaning of this section when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumour or report, has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumour or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it 8 [in good faith and] without any such intent as aforesaid.
The video is a clear piece of evidence that the journalist has put out and his arrest is both illegal and arbitrary. The Editors of Guild put out a note stating that, "The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws. The guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression,”
While the UP Government rejected his bail plea, the Supreme Court is going to be hearing a plea questioning his arrest, and in the interim has asked for Prashant to be released on bail immediately.
We the citizenry need to come together to ask the police to release the journalist, his wife and colleagues and drop all the charges against the journalist. #ReleasePrashantNow