Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday criticised Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath over the arrest of three journalists. The Congress leader said Adityanath was “behaving foolishly” and needs to release those arrested.
Three journalists were arrested over the weekend for allegedly propagating defamatory content about Chief Minister Adityanath.
“If every journalist who files a false report or peddles fake, vicious RSS/BJP sponsored propaganda about me is put in jail, most newspapers/ news channels would face a severe staff shortage,” Gandhi tweeted. “The UP CM is behaving foolishly & needs to release the arrested journalists.”
Responding to this, the Bharatiya Janata Party reminded Gandhi about his ally, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s behaviour against few journalists in the state. “@hd_kumaraswamy your friend @rahulgandhi thinks you are behaving foolishly by arresting people who are posting memes or writing blogs against you,” BJP Karnataka unit said in a tweet. “But he is scared to name you, fearing that you will pull the plug & his party will be out of power in Karnataka! Listen to him.”
It mentioned the names of two journalists who were facing action from the Karnataka government and added: “You’re exactly how a human version of ‘Hypocrisy’ would look like” and that he “openly threatens & abuses journalists.”
On May 27, The Karnataka Police filed a First Information Report against Vishweshwar Bhat, the editor-in-chief of Vishwavani for publishing an allegedly defamatory article about Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy.
In November last year, journalist Santhosh Thammaiah was arrested for allegedly making inflammatory remarks about 18th Century Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan and Prophet Mohammed. Kumaraswamy had also said that there was a need to bring in a law to regulate the media, particularly electronic media.
Congress General Secretary for Uttar Pradesh East Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also criticised the Uttar Pradesh government. “Instead of working on the issues of the people, the UP government is cracking the whip of fear on journalists, farmers and representatives,” she wrote in Hindi on Twitter.
Gandhi’s comments came hours before the Supreme Court ordered the release of journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested on Saturday in Delhi for his comments about Adityanath on social media. It asked the Uttar Pradesh government to “show magnanimity in releasing” Kanojia. The court was hearing a petition by Kanojia’s wife that said his arrest is illegal because necessary legal guidelines were not followed.
In the video that Kanojia shared, a woman is seen speaking to reporters outside the chief minister’s office claiming that she had been talking to Adityanath over video chat and had sent a marriage proposal to him. Two other journalists, Ishita Singh, who is the head of news channel Nation Live, and Anuj Shukla, one of the channel’s editors, were also arrested on Sunday after the channel allegedly aired the video. The police claimed the channel does not have the requisite licence to operate.
On Monday, the Congress had said: “Detaining a journalist for sharing a video that presents a State official in poor light is illegal & arbitrary and violates the principles our nation is founded on.”
The Editors Guild of India also condemned the arrests of the journalists. “The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws,” it had said. “The guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression.”