Freelance journalist Mandeep Punia was arrested on January 31 by the Delhi Police while covering the farmer agitations against the three new farm laws at the Singhu border. Barely 40 days into 2021, five journalists, including Punia, have been arrested in India. No other year since 1992 has recorded more than four journalist arrests in India, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Apart from the five arrests, an arrest warrant was issued against another scribe. FIRs, many with sedition charges, were filed against 10 other journalists. In general, the better the political rights and civil liberties in a country, the higher the press freedom. However, India is an outlier to this trend: other citizens are better off in terms of civil liberties and political rights compared to journalists.
In just a month
A list of all the arrests made and FIRs filed against journalists in January 2021.
- January 17: Three journalists of the website 'The Frontier Manipur' were arrested under the UAPA and charged with sedition.
- January 20:Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta was issued a non-bailable arrest warrant by a Gujarat court.
- January 25: Three journalists in U.P.'s Kanpur Dehat district were booked for airing a report about a school function drill.
- January 28: FIRs were lodged against six senior journalists for inciting violence on January 26 through their social media posts.
- January 30: The Rampur Police in U.P. registered an FIR against senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan.
- January 31: Mandeep Punia was arrested by the Delhi Police at the Singhu border. Another journalist, Dharmender Singh, was picked up by police on January 30 evening from the border.
Highest in 30 years
With five arrests in January, this year has already witnessed the highest number of arrests of journalists since 1992 in India, according to the CPJ.
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Not so free press
India's score of 71 on the citizens' political rights and civil liberties indicator (represented by freedom score 2019, horizontal axis) was relatively high. However, the country's press freedom index score (vertical axis) of 45.33 was relatively low. In India, the freedom of journalists seems to be more curtailed than the freedom of citizens.
Source: CPJ, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, Editor's Guild of India