It is a direct assault on the freedom of press: Editors Guild of India
Journalists across the country have rallied to the support of Tarakant Dwivedi, the Mumbai reporter whose article about a leaky roof spoiling weapons bought in the wake of 26/11 has led to his under the Official Secrets Act for “spying.”
Tarakant Dwivedi, now a reporter with the Mid Day, was working for the Mumbai Mirror when he filed a story on June 28, 2010 about the poor state of the Railway Police Force armoury at the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus. Automatic weapons bought after the outrage over the outdated arms used by the RPF to repulse the terrorist attack on 26/11 were being stored in a room with a leaky roof. Pictures by Raju Shinde showed rifles being soaked in rainwater.
On May 17, 2011, almost a year after his story was published, Mr. Dwivedi was arrested by the Railway Police, originally on grounds of trespassing (into the armoury) and later on a charge of spying under the OSA. Two days later, the Railway Court remanded him to three days police custody.
Condemning the arrest, the Editors Guild of India termed it a “direct assault” on the freedom of press. Editors Guild president T.N. Ninan and Secretary Coomi Kapoor appealed to the Railway Minister to intercede in the matter.
“The Guild notes that the article was written in public interest so as to bring to light serious dereliction of duty by government officials. It is the job of the media to expose wrong-doing in public institutions, and the reporter should not be penalised for acting in the best traditions of journalism,” they said in a statement.
Mumbai journalists, led by the Brihan-Mumbai Union of Journalists and the Marathi Patrakar Sangh, strongly protested against the ‘arbitrary' arrest, and several hundred of them participated in a protest march on Thursday. Several senior scribes met the Maharashtra Home Minister to demand that the case be withdrawn.
Emphasising the support of journalists from across the world, The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a statement. “We extend our solidarity to Akela [Mr. Dwivedi's pen-name] and all the Mumbai's journalists in their struggle against this ‘gross violation' of media freedom and the public's right to be informed of matters concerning their personal safety,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park. “The IFJ believes that in areas of heightened security concerns, efforts by the official agencies to restrict the flow of information do little for the cause of public reassurance.”