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Journalists protest arrest of Kanojia, two others; call it attack on freedom of expression

Journalists protest arrest of Kanojia, two others; call it attack on freedom of expression
June 11
10:49 2019

NEW DELHI: A group of journalists and activists held a protest here on Monday over the arrest of scribe Prashant Kanojia and the editor and the head of a Noida-based TV channel by the Uttar Pradesh police, alleging that it is an attack on the freedom of expression.

They demanded the immediate release of Kanojia, Anuj Shukla, who is the editor of Noida-based TV channel Nation Live, and its head Ishika Singh, who have faced police action over the release of alleged objectionable content against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The journalists, many wearing black arm bands and holding placards, held a symbolic march from the Press Club of India in central Delhi towards the Rail Bhawan circle and back in the scorching heat and raised slogans against the Yogi government.

Kanojia’s wife Jageesha Arora, who also joined the protest, said, “My husband’s arrest is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional. So, now, people can get arrested for writing something on social media and using humour.”

The protest was held jointly by members of the Editors Guild of India, Press Club of India, Indian Women Press Corps, South Asian Women in the Media, Press Association and several other independent journalists and activists.

“Today, journalists can get arrested for using humour and irony in a social media post. This incident is a direct attack on the freedom of expression,” Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of news portal The Wire, alleged.

“Kanojia had served for around two years at our organisation (The Wire) before moving on to a new job earlier this year,” he added.

Senior journalist Neerja Chowdhury, who took part in the protest too, also alleged that the arrest of the three persons amounted to an attack on the freedom of media and freedom of expression

“This is a direct attack on the freedom of the press. This is an indication to younger journalists who are more rebellious that if you do not confine, this is what is going to happen to you… It is going to be worse than what we saw in the last five years,” she said.

There is a need for solidarity among various groups beyond the media fraternity, Chowdhury added.

Activist Shabnam Hashmi also demanded immediate dropping of the charges against Kanojia, Singh and Shukla and sought their release.

Senior journalist and former president of Press Club of India, Gautam Lahiri said people have assembled spontaneously to protect the freedom of speech.

“The arrest of these three persons is a direct attack on the freedom of speech. We want to tell authorities that they should not play with journalists,” he said.

Dr Kafeel Khan, who had earlier been arrested in connection with the death of infants at a government hospital in Gorakhpur, also joined the protest.

“As print media is slowly dying, web-based news portals are really becoming a believable source of news. This act of Yogi government is to silence that media also,” he alleged.

The Editors Guild on Sunday had condemned the arrest of Kanojia Singh and Shukla over alleged objectionable content related to Adityanath, describing the police action as an “authoritarian misuse of laws” and an effort to intimidate the press.

An FIR was registered against Kanojia at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on Friday night in which it was alleged that the accused made “objectionable comments against the CM and tried to malign his image”.

Kanojia had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the CM’s office, claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Adityanath.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on Tuesday a plea challenging the arrest of Kanojia.

A vacation bench comprising justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi took note of the submission by a lawyer that the plea filed by the spouse of the arrested scribe needed urgent hearing as the arrest was “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.

The journalist’s wife has filed a habeas corpus (bring the person) petition, challenging the arrest of Kanojia. PTI

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