Journalist bodies demand immediate release of journalist Siddique kappan’Term journalist arrest diversionary tactics,
By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Journalist bodies’ apprehensions came true as the UP government, on Wednesday slapped sedition and terrorism charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested with three others, while they were on their way to Boolgarhi village in Hathras district to meet the victim’s family. Condemning his arrest, they said it is an attempt to divert the attention from failure of the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who is facing all round flak over the handling of Dalit girl’s gangrape and murder case.
UP police registered an FIR against them in the Mant police station, charging them under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (for promoting enmity between groups) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC, sections 14 and 17 of UAPA, sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
They were arrested near Mathura on Monday, with Kappan heading to Hathras to cover the present situation in the area in light of the death of the 19-year-old woman who was allegedly gang-raped by four Thakur men.
On Sunday, a day before the arrest of Kappan, the high powered journalist association, the Editors Guild Of India condemned the manner in which the law enforcement agencies of the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, have prevented media persons from reporting on developments in and around Hathras after a brutal assault on a woman leading to her death and the hurried cremation of her body by the authorities without the presence of the family of the deceased.
However, in a strong worded statement on Tuesday, the Press Club of India (PCI) demanded Kappan’s release without delay. PCI said, “In these circumstances our worry is that UP Police may not fight shy of using anti-terrorism provisions with which to charge the Kerala journalist.”
The statement further underlined that,“It is our apprehension that the Yogi Adityanath government, in line with its clearly stated conspiracy theory as an explanation for the tragic Hathras incident, will employ diversionary tactics to take the focus away from the many suspicious, possibly criminal, actions of its police and administration and the virtual silence of the political leadership on the Hathras tragedy.”
Another association, the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has also demanded Kappan’s immediate release. In a statement, DUJ said “The Delhi Union of Journalists is alarmed at the arrest of Siddique Kappan, secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists Delhi Unit, at Mathura yesterday while on his way to Hathras to cover the fallout of the gangrape. He is a professional journalist who works for several Malayalam media houses including azhimukham.com and was on an official assignment when he was arrested. We urge his immediate release.”
And adding that “The arrest of the Kerala journalist is a pointer that the regime in UP is a further illustration of the ham-handed methods used to stop the media from doing its work. Inhibiting the media is evidently directed toward stopping facts from being known in the public sphere.”
The DUJ statement also reminded that “We regret that journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested from Delhi by U.P. police on August 18, 2020 for a tweet, is still in jail. We deplore the tendency to arrest journalists on dubious grounds.”
Kanojia, a former staffer of The Wire Hindi, was arrested by the UP Police in August from Delhi over a tweet.
Several journalists unions and bodies have come out in support of Kappan and condemned his arrest in the strongest possible terms and defended that he was trying to do his duty as a reporter.
Kappan is a Delhi-based Malayalam journalist and secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ)’s Delhi unit. The Union had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, asking it to “issue a writ in the nature of Habeas Corpus or any other appropriate writ, or orders directing the respondent…produce Mr. Sidhique Kappan before this Hon’ble court, and release him from illegal detention.”
It has also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the CM Yogi h seeking release of Siddique which stated that Siddique was going to Hathras to perform his duties as a journalist.
The Press Association and Indian Women Press Corps termed his arrest as an attempt to “silence” the media. Contesting the claims of the UP police that Siddique was a member of PFI, IWPC and the Press Association said that UP police had failed to provide any evidence of him being a member of PFI.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a global media watchdog, also came forward in support of Malayali journalist and urged the UP government to release him without any delay nd drop any inquiry against him.
The three others arrested along with Kappan are Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam. While Rehman and Ahmed are members of the Campus Front of India (CFI), the student wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), Alam was driving the vehicle in which they were travelling to Hathras. They were all booked under the harsh sections of UAPA.
According to section 17 of the UAPA, “Whoever raises funds for the purpose of committing a terrorist act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Section 14 of the UAPA reads, “Whoever knowingly holds any property derived or obtained from commission of any terrorist act or acquired through the terrorist fund shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
In the FIR, the sub-inspector accuses the four of carrying pamphlets reading ‘Justice for Hathras Victim’ and moving towards the district to disrupt peace as part of a “big conspiracy”.
All India Muslim Majlis-e- Mushawarat (AIMMM) also condemned the arrest of journalist and three Muslim youth. In a tweet, AIMMM president, Navaid Hamid said the UP government is trying to turn Hathras rape issue as Hindu-Muslim.
“Condemning the attempt by “Yogi Government to make the rape and murder of a Dalit woman a Hindu-Muslim issue. The arrest of a Muslim journalist from Kerala is a clear indication of what UP government has in mind”.