After NewsClick raids, journalists’ collectives write to CJI, say ‘journalism cannot be prosecuted as terrorism’

The journalists’ collectives referred back to the case of Father Stan Swamy as a reminder of the indifference authorities ‘show under the guise of combating terrorism’

October 04, 2023 09:17 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - New Delhi

Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta addresses during a protest against the raids on news portal NewsClick in an alleged terror case, at the Press Club, in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta addresses during a protest against the raids on news portal NewsClick in an alleged terror case, at the Press Club, in New Delhi on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: ANI

Multiple journalists’ collectives from across the country have written to Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud to take cognisance and check the “inherent malice” behind the raids at the homes of 46 journalists, editors, writers and professionals connected to online portal NewsClick and seizure of their electronic devices.

The collectives said that “journalism cannot be prosecuted as terrorism”. The letter said the invocation of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was “especially chilling”.

OPINION | Undeclared Emergency: On the arrests and actions in the Newsclick case

The letter said the police have only so far provided “vague assertions of some unspecified offence” as a pretext to question journalists about their coverage of the farmers’ movement, the government’s handling of the pandemic and the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

“Intimidation of the media affects the democratic fabric of society. Subjecting journalists to a concentrated criminal process because the government disapproves of their coverage of national and international affairs is an attempt to chill the press by threat of reprisal,” the letter noted.

It said that journalists arrested under the UAPA end up spending months, if not years, in jail.

The letter referred to the case of Siddique Kappan, who was incarcerated for over two years, and the tragic death of Father Stan Swamy as a “reminder of how indifferent the authorities seem to have become towards human life under the guise of combating ‘terrorism’”.

“The higher judiciary must now intervene to end the increasingly repressive use of investigating agencies against the media,” the letter urged the Chief Justice.

It said the court should frame norms against the seizure of laptops and mobile phones of journalists on a whim, evolve guidelines for questioning journalists to prevent agencies going on a fishing expedition in the name of investigation and ensure state accountability.

“The developments over the past 24 hours have left us no option but to appeal to your good conscience to take cognisance and intervene before it is too late and an autocratic police state becomes the norm,” the letter addressed Chief Justice Chandrachud.

The collectives include Digipub News India Digipub News India Foundation, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India, Foundation for Media Professionals, Network of Women in Media, Chandigarh Press Club, National Alliance of Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists, Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, Free Speech Collective (Mumbai), Mumbai Press Club, Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists, Press Association, Guwahati Press Club and Indian Journalists’ Union.

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