New Delhi: The Editors Guild has written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, urging him to address the issue of press freedom and ensure the rights and safety of journalists working in the state. The letter, dated 9 November, noted that there had been several incidents in the state that raised concern over the freedom of independent journalism in Uttar Pradesh.
The Guild pointed out that the CM had “upheld the freedom of press when an editor of a TV channel was arrested in Mumbai”. This was in reference to Adityanath’s comments, made during a Bihar poll rally, that the arrest of Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami was “an assault on the fourth pillar of democracy”.
“As the Chief Minister of India’s largest state, you are well aware of the important precedence that the state sets with respect to safeguarding all constitutional rights. This is especially crucial with respect to persevering the space for free media, more so at a time when the world has been in the throes of a pandemic,” the letter stated. Its undersigned included Seema Mustafa, Guild president, Sanjay Kapoor, general secretary and Anant Nath, treasurer.
The letter further stated that there have been “compelling cases of intimidation (and) harassment by authorities” of journalists working in Uttar Pradesh.
It also listed cases that had been filed on “spurious charges” against journalists in the state. Among those mentioned were Siddique Kappan, a Delhi-based journalist working for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham, who was picked up in Mathura while on his way to report the rape in Hathras in October.
Kappan is booked under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, with police alleging that he was part of an internationally-funded “conspiracy” to instigate caste riots in the state. Kappan is still in jail and his family hasn’t been allowed to speak to him.
Several cases of journalists facing the law
The Guild also cited the case of Supriya Sharma, executive editor of Scroll, against whom a case was registered on 18 June this year under SC/ST Act for reporting on “poor state of affairs” in Varanasi, Prime Minister Modi’s parliamentary constituency.
Cases were also filed against five journalists in Bijnor — Ashish Tomar, Shakil Ahmed, Lakhan Singh, Aamir Khan and Moin Ahmad — on 7 September for criminal intimidation and promoting enmity between religious groups.
Ravindra Saxena with Today 24 was booked for reporting about the “mismanagement” of a isolation centre in Maholi tehsil of Sitapur.
Cases were filed against Janadesh Times’ Vijay Vineet and Manish Mishra for their report that showcased the “plight” of Musher residents of Koiripur village in Varanasi where children were reported eating grass.
A Lucknow-based freelance journalist Azad Rizvi was assaulted by police on 2 October while reporting on protests in the aftermath of Hathras rape.
The letter urged Adityanath to free the jailed journalists and withdraw the cases in order to ensure safety of all journalists in the state. It also offered to send a delegation of national editors to Lucknow to explore ways in which a “protective environment” could be created for the media to function.