New Delhi: Several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders including Union ministers Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Prakash Javadekar and other senior party functionaries have expressed their outrage at Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami’s arrest, saying the Maharashtra government has abused its power and clamped down on freedom of expression.
While the leaders’ concern for media freedom is admirable, several people have pointed that BJP governments across India have targeted and arrested a number of journalists, and no Union ministers have spoken up in those cases. Here’s a list of journalists arrested just in the last few months, who haven’t got the same solidarity from the ruling party as Goswami has. The list of journalists who have FIRs against them or have been summoned by the police – but haven’t been arrested – would have been even longer.
1. Siddique Kappan
Kappan, a reporter with the Malayalam news portal azhimukham.com, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on October 5 while on his way to Hathras to cover the Dalit teenager’s gang-rape and murder. He has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for ‘conspiring’ against the state government.
2. Kishorechandra Wangkhem
Manipuri journalist Wangkhem was arrested in October this year on charges of sedition for responding to a viral social media post, made by the wife of a BJP politician. This is the second time Wangkhem has been arrested – in 2018 too he had been charged with sedition, for commenting against the RSS, chief minister N. Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2019, the high court had quashed the charges against him.
3. Prashant Kanojia
Independent journalist Kanojia, who used to be a reporter with The Wire Hindi, has been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police twice in the last two years, both times for tweets that the government has deemed ‘seditious’. In both cases, the courts ordered his release.
4. Rajib Sarma
Assamese journalist and correspondent for DY365, Sarma was arrested on July 16, 2020 based on the complaint of a district forest officer. Sarma was investigating the officer’s alleged links to cattle smuggling and other illegal activities. After facing criticism, the government ordered a CID probe into the case pertaining to the journalist’s arrest.
5. Dhaval Patel
The editor of a Gujarati news portal was charged with sedition and arrested in early May after he published a speculative piece on the state chief minister, Vijay Rupani, being replaced because the rising number of coronavirus cases under his watch. A court granted him bail weeks after his arrest.
6. Naresh Khohal
Khohal, a photojournalist with a Hindi daily in Haryana’s Jhajjar, was arrested after he informed the local police about stone pelting in his neighbourhood on May 7. The police, who Khohal had to call in person after they did not respond to his call, booked the journalist for “creating a nuisance” and violation COVID-19 norms. A month later, a government inquiry found that his arrest was “not appropriate”.
7. Rahul Kulkarni
Mumbai-based journalist and executive editor of leading Marathi news channel ABP Majha, Kulkarni was arrested in April for allegedly spreading ‘fake news’ about a passenger train for migrant workers and thereby instigating people to gather at Bandra station. However, four months later he was exonerated of all charges.
8. Rajeev Sharma
In September, the Delhi police arrested independent journalist and foreign policy commentator Sharma under the Official Secrets Act, saying he was part of a ‘spy ring’ which included two foreign nationals. Sharma’s arrest has been questioned by journalists’ organisations.
9. Tsewang Rigzin
Rigzin, the Leh correspondent of State Times, was arrested on September 5, for a comment he didn’t even make. BJP MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal from Ladakh filed a complaint against him after a third person made a remark against the MP on a Facebook post moderated by Rigzin. The group has 34,000 members. The journalist was granted bail the same day.