Two editors of The Frontier Manipur, who were charged with sedition and arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for publication of an article on the online news portal, were released from police custody on Monday, their lawyer Chongtham Victor told Victor, however, said that the legal status of the case was still unclear as they have not been produced in a court.

Earlier, the two editors issued an apology to the police on Monday, NDTV reported. In a letter addressed to the superintendent of police of Imphal West, the website’s Editor-in-Chief Sadokpam Dhiren and Executive Editor Paojel Chaoba said that the article was “unverified” and it was an “oversight” on their part to have published it on January 8.

The letter, however, did not carry the signature of M Joy Luwang, who had written the article, and was also charged under the same sections.

The article headlined “Revolutionary journey in a mess” is a critical indictment of Manipur’s many armed groups who have waged an armed secessionist movement since the 1960s. In the piece, Luwang accused the groups of “falling prey to the Indian government’s design of breaking their backbones” and not living up to the “revolutionary” ideals they were formed with.

In the first information report, the police claimed that the author “openly endorsed revolutionary ideologies and activities and expressed shock at the deteriorating character of the armed revolutionaries of Manipur in the last decade”.

Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India on Monday criticised their arrest under the stringent anti-terror law. It said the action was a “brazen violation of every constitutional safeguard given for freedom of expression”.

In its statement, the journalists’ body pointed out that indictment under UAPA for an analysis of politics in Manipur was “worrying and shocking”.

“This is not the first time the administration has used draconian laws like sedition
and UAPA against editors and journalists,” the statement said. “In the past too, journalists holding opinions contrary to the dominant narrative have been subjected to retaliation by
the administration.

The statement said that media organisations were in danger of “irrational use” of these laws against them, if the police was not “nuanced in fundamental rights and various Supreme Court judgments on the imperative to protect freedom”.

The association called for a withdrawal of the cases filed against the two journalists and the writer.

The Manipur police have charged several people, including journalists, under sedition in the last few years for their social media posts. The most well-known of these cases are the ones filed against Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who incidentally happens to be associate editor at Frontier Manipur currently.

Wangkhem was charged under the National Security Act and with sedition in 2018 after he posted a Facebook video critical of Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He spent over four months in jail.

In 2020, Wangkhem was charged with sedition yet again. This time, he spent more than two months in prison.