The Editor’s Guild of India (EGI) has demanded immediate release of the editors of The Frontier Manipur, an online news portal, who were arrested by the police on Sunday on sedition and terror-related charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Saying that the cases registered against the arrested editors as a threat to free expression and to democracy, the EGI has also demanded for withdrawal of the cases.
“The Editor’s Guild of India considers the recent arrest of a writer and two editors of Manipur website The Manipur Frontier under Indian Penal Code applicable to sedition and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as a brazen violation of every constitutional safeguard given for freedom of expression,” said EGI in a statement.
The EGI has also slammed the Manipur Police booking the arrested trio under draconian anti-terror laws for an article.
“What’s worrying and shocking is that the Manipur Police has arrested the Editor-in-Chief Sadokpam Diren, Executive Editor Pajel Chaoba and the writer of the reportedly offending article M Joy Luwang under these draconian anti-terror laws for their analysis of politics of Manipur State,” the EGI further said while slamming the State Police.
Expressing concern over the clampdown on Freedom of Expression on media organisations, the EGI said: “EGI believes that till the police is not nuanced in fundamental rights and various Supreme Court judgements on the imperative to protect freedom, no media organisation is safe from the irrational use of these laws.”
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement on the arrest of journalists in Manipur under sedition laws as well as UAPA. EGI demands the immediate release of the editors and withdrawal of these cases that pose a threat to free expression, and to democracy itself. pic.twitter.com/GQqFGZw7yP
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) January 18, 2021
Notably, the Manipur Police had booked a writer and 2 editors of online news portal The Frontier Manipur and charged them under the sedition law over publication of an article.
The article was published on January 8, 2021 under the headline ‘Revolutionary journey in a mess’.
The police also brought charges of “supporting a terrorist organisation” under the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The article is a critical indictment of many armed groups in Manipur, which have waged armed struggle since the 1960s.
The police in their FIR said the author “openly endorsed revolutionary ideologies and activities and expressed shock at the deteriorating character of the armed revolutionaries of Manipur in the last decade”.
The FIR said: “His article clearly expressed sympathy and support to the ideologies and activities of the armed revolutionary groups and out rightly called the rule of law of the Union government and Centre as colonial law.”
The police in its FIR claimed the article was an “attempt to bring hatred, contempt and feeling of enmity against rule of law” which could incite the public to “commit an offence against the state thereby posing serious threats of internal security issues”.
The two journalists have been charged under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 505(b) (causing alarm to induce offence against the state), and 34 (common intention), as well as the UAPA’s Section 39 (supporting terror organisation).