New Delhi: Journalist bodies including the Editors Guild of India (EGI) Friday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on the sedition case against veteran journalist Vinod Dua.
The apex court on Thursday had quashed the case against Dua for his alleged comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his YouTube show last year, saying a 1962 verdict entitles every journalist to protection.
Lauding the verdict, while the EGI demanded repeal of the “draconian” and “antiquated” sedition laws, the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) hoped that the apex court judgment will provide “immediate relief” to the journalists who are in jail under sedition charges.
“EGI expresses satisfaction with the Supreme Court’s concerns over the chilling effect that sedition laws have on free media and our democracy,” the Guild said in a statement.
“The Guild demands repeal of these draconian and antiquated laws that find no space in any modern liberal democracy,” it said.
While the reference to the earlier judgement of Justice Kedar Nath Singh and the need to protect journalists from sedition charges is welcome, the manner in which such laws are implemented by the law enforcement authorities in different parts of the country, “leading to pre-trial incarceration, needs further intervention by the apex court”, the Guild added.
“We have noticed, with dismay, a growing trend in India in recent times where both the central and the state governments have routinely slapped sedition charges on journalists for articles, tweets, Facebook posts that criticise government policies, actions of their functionaries and shortcomings in governance,” the IWPC said in a statement.
In January, IWPC founder member Mrinal Pande and some other journalists were booked for sedition for tweets relating to farmers’ protest. Another journalist and Kerala Union of Working Journalists’ office-bearer Kappan Siddique has been in jail facing sedition and other charges like Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act since October 2020, the journalist body noted.
“While we know that charges like sedition do not stand in courts, we also know that such charges are slapped to harass them,” the IWPC said.
“We, at the IWPC, laud the Supreme Court judgement and hope that the central and state governments will now refrain from using such means as an attempt to silence the media. We also hope that this judgment will provide immediate relief to journalists who are in jail under Sedition charges,” it added.
The Press Association said it appreciates the Supreme Court’s concerns over “the chilling effect” that sedition laws have on free media and our democracy.
“The apex court not only just quashed the criminal complaint against Dua but has also underlined the importance of protecting journalists from sedition cases. The apex court also made it amply clear that a journalist cannot be arrested just because he/she has criticised the government,” it added.
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