IFJ Concerned by Spike in Criminal Prosecution of Journalists and Media

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) today releases apaperon the criminalisation of free speech

and expression in India,

drawing attention to a recent spike in legal prosecution of journalists and

media organisations. Some of these actions are taken under special security

laws enacted in conflict prone areas, while several are under ordinary criminal

law in regions where no perceptible threat of insurgent violence exists.


The paper was presented and

discussed at a regional symposium on “Criminalisation of Speech, Expression and

Opinion in Asia” in Jakarta,

Indonesia between

July 15 and 16. The symposium was hosted by the Asian Forum for Human Rights

and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), the

Southeast Asia Media Legal Defense Network (SEAMLDN) and the Alliance of

Independent Journalists of Indonesia (AJI), an IFJ affiliate. The U.N. Special

Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, was a special invitee to the



The Indian Constitution protects the

right to free speech and only grants that “reasonable restrictions” can be

imposed on specified grounds. The Indian Supreme Court has established

guidelines on when such restrictions can be legally permitted, though experts

believe that the judiciary’s understanding of this is still fragmented.


Criminal defamation cases and hate

speech prosecutions have also been launched against journalists and media, with

barely concealed political motives. In its eagerness to prosecute for contempt,

the judiciary has also provided insufficient protection to journalists when

issues questioning its own functioning are raised.


Actions by the police and security

agencies, the IFJ study judges, are often taken with the knowledge that the

cases involved will never go through the full process of trial, but would serve

the function of silencing critical commentary in the media.


The IFJ study concludes that “the

free speech right remains hostage to conflicting judicial interpretations and

uncertain ethical commitments by the officers of the state”. It urges media

managers and journalists’ organisations to organise and mount a legal challenge

“that will establish a framework of rules for the responsible and socially

committed exercise of the right of free speech”.



For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +61 2 9333 0919



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