Indian journalist released after four months in custody

The Manipur High Court has ordered the release of Indian journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem following his detention on November 21, 2018 under the National Security Act. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) have welcomed the decision to release Wangkhem, and call for all outstanding charges to be dropped.

Kishorchandra Wangkhem was first arrested on August 9 charged with inciting public mischief through a series of Facebook posts, under the Indian Penal Code. On August 10 he was placed in 15-day police custody and later released on bail. On November 20, he was arrested again after he posted a video criticising Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Facebook. The police charged him with sedition, inciting hatred and defamation. On November 21, he was re-arrested under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) ‘with a view to prevent him from acting in any matter prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order’, according to the detention order signed by the district magistrate of Imphal (West). The November 20 charges were dismissed on November 26.

Justice Lanusungkum Jamir and Justice K H Nobin Singh quashed the order of the district magistrate of Imphal West for detaining Wangkhem under the National Security Act and ordered his immediate release. He is likely to be released in a day or two.

IJU welcomed the court order to release Wangkhem. “Though the court took far too long – about four months to release him, it was heartening news as his detention was a gross misuse of NSA and simply unacceptable. The Manipur High Court vindicated our faith in the judiciary and upheld the freedom of speech and expression,” said IJU president Amar Devulapalli.

The IFJ said: “While we welcome the decision to release Kishorchandra Wangkhem, the fact that he was detained under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) is a violation of freedom of expression. The vague ruling within the NSA which allows for his detention needs to be revised immediately to ensure this does not happen again.”