Repression of Manipur media
Executive editor of Frontier Manipur Paojel Chaoba (L) and editor-in-chief Sadokpam Dhiren (R) who were arrested and released last month Credit: EastMojo image

Imphal: Two senior journalists arrested by Manipur Police over an article were released unconditionally from the Singjamei Police Station in Imphal West district on Monday.

Sadokpam Dhiren, editor-in-chief of Frontier Manipur, and executive editor Paojel Chaoba was arrested on Sunday and charged under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in connection with the publication of an article in their web portal.

A joint meeting was held between the chief minister N Biren Singh and representatives of the Editors Guild of Manipur (EGM) and All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) at the secretariat regarding the issue.

Speaking with EastMojo soon after his release from Singjamei Police Station, Paojel Chaoba expressed gratitude towards the media fraternity for their support.

The undertaking signed by the two journalists before their release

“The article was already published in two other publications, and so we thought that it would not be a problem because it was an article which was criticising the revolutionary movement. And we thought that it was a good critique,” said Paojel.

“The government found it objectionable, and we were hauled up. But they couldn’t find anything which was seditious or verging on anti-social. So we have been released unconditionally,” he added.

Just before the two senior journalists were set free, Paojel was made to sign an undertaking statement cited that the particular article was an ‘oversight’.

EastMojo tried to get a response from the police officials but was unable to do so. This story will be updated as and when they respond to our calls/

“There was no point of negotiation, but it was a unilateral decision we took,” said Dhiren after he’s released from the police custody.

Also Read: Manipur: Two journalists booked under UAPA, sedition charges

Talking about the article, Dhiren said there is a difference between suppression of freedom of expression and objectionable matters. “But if the state finds it objectionable, I think we should be careful about it,” he added.

“But the merit of the article we published, I still stand by with our decision because I think it has its own analysis and consumable by the public,” he maintained.

Dhiren said he did not have any idea about the author.

“Usually, we take articles written by unknown authors. But I think the state found it objectionable. Eventually, they took one step back and similarly, we did the same,” added Dhiren.

The Imphal-based online portal published an article titled ‘Revolutionary journey in a mess’ by M Joy Luwang on 8 January 2021. The article, according to police, is a critical indictment of many armed groups in the state.

On Sunday, the police filed an FIR against the two journalists of the online portal and the author and charged under IPC sections 120B (Criminal Conspiracy), 505(b) (causing alarm to induce offence against the state) and 34 (common intention) along with Section 39 (supporting terror organisation) of the UAPA.

Also Read: TMC MLA slaps reporter: Siliguri journalist club demands apology

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