The International Press Institute and Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drop all charges against journalists, including those under the draconian sedition laws, that have been imposed on them for their work, reported Scroll.
The press associations also accused the Modi government of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to silence its critics. As many as 55 journalists were targeted for covering the pandemic in India between 25 March – when lockdown was first imposed and 31 May – a report by Rights and Risks Analysis Group has shown, the letter noted. In a joint statement, the global media groups asked the prime minister to take immediate steps to ensure that journalists can work “without harassment and fear of reprisal”. Journalistic work, they said, cannot be equated to sedition or undermining security.
The letter took note of the “enormous increase” in the number of journalists being charged for sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, with up to three years to life in prison.
The groups said they found this trend of using sedition laws to stifle criticism “extremely disturbing”.
“The use of sedition laws to harass independent, critical journalists is not only a gross violation of the country’s international commitments, it is also an attempt by the government to silence any criticism,” they added. “Journalistic work cannot be equated to sedition or undermining security.”