The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of sedition cases file against journalists and called for the repealing of sedition and criminal defamation laws.
In a statement, the CHRI said criminal cases had been filed against journalists over the past few months for various reasons.
“Senior and younger journalists, photographers, news anchors and editors have been physically and legally attacked as well as abused on social media for their work. This casts a long shadow over the state of freedom of expression in the country, which has for decades been a thriving bastion of journalism.”
The CHRI said police forces in various States had used colonial era laws like sedition and criminal defamation as well as economic offences to “silence media”.
“Laws such as sedition and criminal defamation have no place in a nation committed to democratic practices. The sedition cases against the journalists should be withdrawn. India should commit to revisiting, reviewing and repealing these archaic laws, rooted in a colonial past. The government must ensure protection under law for journalists who face harassment and threats,” the CHRI said.
It said India was a leading member of the 54-nation Commonwealth, which is set to have a summit in June, and that it was a signatory to the Commonwealth Charter to uphold freedom of expression.