The Editors Guild of India on Sunday criticised the Uttar Pradesh Police for arresting three journalists for allegedly propagating defamatory content about Chief Minister Adityanath.

Journalist Prashant Kanojia was arrested from Delhi on Saturday for allegedly maligning Adityanath’s image. Journalists familiar with Kanojia said the state police had taken objection to his tweet with an embedded video in which a woman is seen claiming to want to marry Adityanath. The woman claimed she had been talking to the chief minister over video chat and had sent him a marriage proposal. On Sunday, Ishita Singh, the head of news channel Nation Live, and Anuj Shukla, one of the channel’s editors, were arrested after the channel allegedly aired the video. The police claimed the channel does not have the requisite licence to operate.

“The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws,” the Editors Guild of India said in a statement. “The guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression.”

The organisation said despite questions about the accuracy of the woman’s claims, “to register a case of criminal defamation against the journalists for sharing it on the social media and airing it on a television channel is a brazen misuse of law”.

“As with a recent case in Karnataka that the guild spoke about, the FIR in this case is also not filed by the person allegedly affected but suo motu by the police,” it added. “This is a condemnable misuse of law and state power.”

The Editors Guild reiterated its demand for decriminalisation of the defamation law, and said its misuse in this case and in Karnataka “goes way beyond criminal defamation as many IT Act and Indian Penal Code provisions have been invoked in what looks like a motivated and vindictive action”.

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