IPI, IFJ urge Modi to prevent increasing use of sedition laws against journalists

In the letter, journalists' organisations expressed grave concern over the increasing use "of sedition charges against journalists" in the country
Last Updated : 22 October 2020, 10:49 IST

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Two international media organisations have shot off a joint letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take urgent action to "prevent the increasing use" of sedition laws and other legal sanctions against journalists and ensure that they "can work without harassment and fear of reprisal".

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) also asked Modi 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 IPI is a global network of editors, media executives, and leading journalists for press freedom while the IFJ is a global federation of national journalists’ unions and associations.

In their letter, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen and IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger expressed their "grave concern over the increasing use" of sedition charges against journalists in the country, the recent one being the case of sedition filed by the Uttar Police against Malayali journalist Siddique Kappan, who was trying to reach the family of Hathras gang-rape victim.

The letter also cited the cases of Face of Nation editor Dhaval Patel, who published a report about possible leadership change in Gujarat, and Bhumkal Samachar editor Kamal Shukla, who shared a cartoon referring to the rejecting petitions for investigations into the mysterious death of a judge Brijgopal Loya. It also referred to the case against veteran journalist Vinod Dua for his broadcast blaming the government on its Covid-19 preparedness and making allegations against Modi.

"We find it extremely disturbing that governments in different states of India are attempting to stifle press freedom by filing cases against journalists under different sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 124A. The number of cases filed against journalists have increased enormously after the spread of the pandemic," the joint letter said.

Quoting a report by Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG), the letter said that as many as 55 journalists were targeted for covering the pandemic in India between March 25, when the lockdown was first imposed, and May 31.

The health crisis is being used as an excuse to silence those who have exposed shortcoming in the government’s response to it, while on the contrary, it is important for both citizens and the public authorities to have factual information about the situation in order to best respond to the pandemic, it said.

Asserting that free media is essential to a successful public health response, it added that democracy in India can remain strong only when the media is free to report and shine a light on issues that need urgent attention of the government.

"We urge you (Modi) to take immediate steps to ensure that journalists can work without any harassment and fear of reprisal from the government. 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 added.

Published 22 October 2020, 10:49 IST

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