New Delhi: The Press Council of India has taken suo motu cognisance of the arrest of journalist Sanjay Rana in Uttar Pradesh for questioning a minister on her election promises at a public event in the state’s Sambhal district.
The two-page notice issued by PCI, on March 16, Thursday, says that as the arrest involves “curtailment of the press freedom and the statute mandates the Press Council of India to preserve the freedom of the press, the Honourable chairperson, PCI has viewed the aforesaid action with concern and has taken suo motu cognisance of the matter under Regulation 13 of the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979.”
The PCI has sought responses from the UP chief secretary; the secretary, Home (police) department; the district collector (Sambhal), the Director General of Police, UP; and the concerned superintendent of police within two weeks.
The notice is an important development, as it acknowledges the rights of journalists to question those in authority as their duty and that the arrests was unacceptable.
India has been falling precipitously in the World Press Freedom Index since 2015, and is currently in the bottom 30 countries out of 180, lower than Turkey, Rwanda, Libya or even Somalia, and below all nations of Africa except Eritrea, Egypt and Sudan, per the index compiled by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).
The Press Council of India is a statutory quasi-judicial autonomous authority reestablished in the year 1979 under an Act of Parliament, Press Council Act, 1978, with the twofold objectives of preserving the freedom of the press by maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and the news agencies in India. It was first set up in 1966 under the Indian Press Council Act, 1965, but that Act was repealed in 1975 and the Press Council was abolished during Emergency. Thereafter, a new Act was enacted.
Rana was arrested after questioning state minister for secondary education Gulab Devi at a function on March 12 over her promises of development before elections.
In UP’s Sambhal, Sanjay Rana, a reporter with a Youtube channel confronted UP govt MoS Gulab Devi with promises of development as against reality at a function on March 11. An FIR was registered and Rana was arrested based on the complaint of genel sec of BJYM. pic.twitter.com/IwkphNjX8T
— Piyush Rai (@Benarasiyaa) March 13, 2023
A first information report was filed against him on the complaint of a leader from the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Shubham Raghav.
Rana was charged under Indian Penal Code Sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation).
He got bail after spending 30 hours in police custody.