IFJ Welcomes Decision of Indian Supreme Court to Uphold Right to Free Expression

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, welcomes last Monday's decision of the Supreme Court of India to stay the execution of arrest warrants for five senior journalists from The Hindu newspaper and the editor of Murasoli newspaper.

“It was totally inappropriate for the Tamil Nadu Assembly to resolve to sentence these journalists to jail in the first place,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren today.

“Now the Supreme Court has granted the stay, we are calling on the Tamil Nadu Assembly to immediately revoke the resolution against the journalists,” says the IFJ.

Warrants for the arrest of The Hindu newspaper’s Editor N. Ravi, Executive Editor Malini Parthasarathy, Publisher N. Rangarajan, Chief of Bureau V. Jayanth, Special Correspondent Radha Venkatesan and S. Selvam, editor of Murasoli, were issued by the Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Assembly on November 7, 2003.

According to the IFJ’s information, the journalists were to be arrested and imprisoned for 15 days for breach of privilege, following news reports and editorials critical of a speech given by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

“This is a clear attack on freedom of speech and democracy,” said the IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“The IFJ condemns any attempt to bully journalists into silence by threatening critical reporters with arrest and imprisonment.”

The IFJ is particularly critical of the heavy-handed manner in which the police acted in this case. The use of large numbers of riot police to attempt to arrest a few unarmed journalists is clearly designed to intimidate and frighten journalists into silence. In addition, there were no women police present, in contravention of Indian law.

“A democracy can only function while the media is free to report on and analyse current affairs without fear of oppressive retribution,” says the IFJ.

The IFJ has demanded that all charges against the journalists be dropped and the initial arrest warrant be declared invalid.

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668