India: IJU hails SC view on sedition & media03 Jun, 2021
The Indian Journalists Union welcomes the Supreme Court stay on coercive action by the Andhra Pradesh police against two Telugu news channels, TV 5 and ABN Andhrajyoti and more importantly its observation that the sedition law “requires interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information… even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation.”
Along with its affiliate the Andhra Pradesh Media Federation, the IJU said the apex court’s
observation raises hope for the fourth estate and its working force, beleaguered by governments
who are increasingly misusing provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the IPC to intimidate
and harass journalists and gag independent media.
In its order on Monday following the two TV channels’ petition against the AP FIR under IPC’s
Section 124A, for airing “offending speeches” made by YSR Congress MP Kanumuri Raghu
Rama Krishna Raju, against Chief Minister Jagan Reddy, the court said “It’s high time we define
what sedition is. Criticising the government can’t be termed sedition.” It stayed the action against
the channel and its personnel till the next date of hearing as well as issued notices to AP
government and the Centre in the matter asking them to file a reply within four weeks.
In a statement, IJU President and former Member, Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and
Secretary General and International Federation of Journalists Vice President Sabina Inderjit said a
re-look, rather doing away with the archaic sedition law, was of critical importance to democracy
as press freedom was being brazenly muzzled. The IJU has repeatedly expressed grave concern
over undue haste shown by governments to file sedition cases against journalists to silence
criticism. In fact, the IFJ and IPI have too written to Prime Minister Modi to take urgent action to
prevent increasing use of sedition laws to threaten independent journalists.
Justice Chandrachud’s remark: “a news report yesterday showed that dead bodies were being
thrown in the river. I don’t know if a sedition case has been filed against the news channel yet or
not”, said the IJU hits the nail on the head. Scores of journalists are battling legal cases under the
sedition law and many languishing in jails, thus seeking to instil a sense of fear in the media. The
law must go.