The Editors Guild of India has slammed the Uttar Pradesh government for arresting journalists associated with Noida-based TV channel Nation Live on charges of criminal defamation for airing a video of a woman claiming a “relationship” with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
In a statement on Sunday, the editors' body condemned the government's action, terming it "high-handed" and "arbitrary", and reiterated its demand to decriminalise the defamation law.
"The Editors Guild of India condemns the arrest of Noida-based journalist Prashant Kanojia and the editor and head of Nation Live - Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla - by the Uttar Pradesh government.
An FIR was registered against Noida-based journalist Prashant Kanojia at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on Friday night in which it was alleged that the accused made "objectionable comments against the chief minister and tried to malign his image".
Kanojia had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the CM's office, claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Adityanath.
"The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws. The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression," the Guild said in a statement.
"Whatever the accuracy of the woman’s claims, to register a case of criminal defamation against the journalists for sharing it on the social media and airing it on a television channel is a brazen misuse of law. To give the police powers to arrest, provisions of Section 66 of the IT Act have also been added," it noted.
The editors’ body underlined with concern that the police complaint in this case was not filed by the person allegedly affected (CM Adityanath) but an FIR was suo motu lodged by the police.
“This is a condemnable misuse of law and state power,” the Guild said.
Reiterating its demand for decriminalising the defamation law, it pointed out that the police invoking various IT Act and Indian Penal Code sections in this case “looks like a motivated and vindictive action”.