Ladakh editor arrested over Facebook post against BJP leader

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The editor of the Ladakh-based newspaper State Times, Tsewang Rigzin was arrested by the police based on a police complaint lodged by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tsering Namgyal from Ladakh.

On 3 September, an unidentified member of a Facebook page called Ladakh in Media posted a comment on Jammu and Kashmir BJP leader Vikram Singh Randhawa. Subsequently, the police arrested Mr. Rigzin on 5 September, as he was the administrator of the group, reported The Wire. He was immediately granted bail.

Last year, during the run-up to the parliamentary elections in Ladakh, Mr. Rigzin had filed a first information report against Mr. Randhawa for allegedly bribing journalists at a press meet “to influence the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections” just a day before the polls, Scroll reported.

Mr. Rigzin is the general secretary of the Ladakh Journalists Union, an affiliate of the Indian Journalists Union. On Tuesday, the Indian Journalists Union called Rigzin’s arrest a “blatant attack on freedom of expression”. Union’s president K Sreenivas Reddy called the arrest illegal and arbitrary. He said that the Delhi High Court had in 2016 ruled that the administrator of a social media group could not be held responsible for posts by members.

The Indian Journalists Union also condemned the arrest of Mr. Rigzin on Tuesday. He further thanked the Indian Journalists Union for their support. “We shall overcome!” he said, sharing the union’s press release on his Facebook account.

Mr. Rigzin told The Wire that he offered the police help in tracing the person who made the post in question, but this was difficult as his Facebook account was locked. Mr. Rigzin said he received another call from the police on 5 September. “I was asked to come to the police station regarding the comment of that member,” he said. “There, I was told that they would have to arrest me. I could sense that there was pressure from the top to do so..so I told them to proceed as per the law. I was arrested as a formality and immediately released on bail.”

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