21 October 2020
Letter to PM Modi says that in past few months, a number of journalists have been charged under Section 124A of IPC.
The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists, along with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urged him to direct the State governments to drop sedition cases against journalists.
Expressing “grave concern” at the recent arrest of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, who was trying to reach the family of a girl who died days after she was brutally assaulted and allegedly raped in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, and other similar cases, the two organisations said the government must take immediate steps to ensure that journalists could work without any harassment and fear of reprisal from governments.
The letter said that in the past few months, a number of journalists have been charged under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that lays down the punishment for sedition from three years to life term in prison.
The Section states that those, who by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise bring or attempt to bring in hatred or contempt, or attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India, could be punished with life imprisonment or for a period of three years in prison.
‘Rise in cases during pandemic’
“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. The number of cases filed against journalists increased enormously after the spread of the pandemic. The health crisis is being used as an excuse to silence those who have exposed shortcomings in the government’s response to it,” the organisations said in their letter.
A free media was essential for a successful public health response. As many as 55 journalists were targeted for covering the pandemic in India between March 25, when lockdown was first imposed, and May 31, a report by the Rights and Risks Analysis Group has shown, they noted in the letter.