The Indian Journalists’ Union on Monday condemned the detention of journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem in Manipur under the National Security Act as “blatant misuse” of the legislation, NorthEast Now reported.
Wangkhem was detained on November 27 “with a view to prevent him from acting in any matter prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order”, according to a government order. About a week before his detention, Wangkhem was arrested by the Manipur Police for posting a video critical of Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Facebook.
The National Security Act allows law enforcement agencies to detain people merely on the presumption that they could harm national security. It also denies them access to a lawyer or a hearing in a court of law.
The Indian Journalists’ Union demanded a revocation of the detention order and Wangkhem’s “unconditional release”. “The Indian Journalists’ Union will not tolerate the state authority’s act of setting a wrong precedent,” said Narendra Reddy, the union’s secretary.
Meanwhile, the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union said it has not spoken about Wangkhem’s detention because of a resolution it had passed in August on matters related to the National Security Act, The Indian Express reported. The union said according to the resolution “any person working in any of the media houses of Manipur as journalist or non journalist must face on their own the consequences” for posting derogatory, defamatory, illegal and unconstitutional content on social media “that is not connected with the profession of journalism”.
The union’s President Brozendro Ningombam said the organisation does not support “criminal-minded and mentally unsound people who act and talk in the most uncivilised manner”.
The controversial Facebook post
In the video, Wangkhem had lashed out at Biren Singh, calling him a “puppet of Modi and Hindutva” for organising a function in Manipur on November 19 to mark the birth anniversary of Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, who he claimed had “nothing to do with Manipur”.
“Do you have any sense of Manipuri nationalism?” he had asked in the video. “If you don’t, don’t talk rubbish.” On several occasions during the video, Wangkhem had used expletives against Modi and Singh. “Come and arrest me,” he had said.
The police initially charged him with sedition, defamation, and for inciting hatred. But on November 25, the chief judicial magistrate of Imphal (West) district dismissed the sedition charges and granted Wangkhem bail. “In giving the speech, the accused person transgressed beyond decent human conduct but it cannot be termed seditious,” the court noted. “The government, especially its functionary like prime minister cannot be so sensitive as to take offence upon expression of opinions by its citizen, which may be given very nicely by using proper words or indecently by using some vulgar terms.”