IFJ Welcomes Positive Moves for Free Movement of Journalists and Protection of Sources in India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has today welcomed recent steps taken by the Indian Government, which have meant greater press freedom for journalists in India.

The IFJ welcomes the announcement by the newly elected Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of an Ordinance to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). POTA stipulates that journalists and lawyers do not enjoy immunity and must reveal to the police information regarding terrorism-related offenses. This has severe implications for protection of journalistic sources and press freedom.

“The IFJ welcomes this significant step towards enhancing press freedom in India, “ said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

The move is line with the Congress view that POTA was being misused, and that existing laws (such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967) are sufficient to counter terrorism.

The controversial law was introduced by the Hindu Nationalist BJP in response to the attack against the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and has been used repeatedly to curb press freedom in India, resulting in journalists being jailed and others being intimidated. In a blow to journalistic freedom, in December 2003, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of POTA and declared that neither journalists nor lawyers had a "sacrosanct right" to withhold information regarding a crime under the guise of professional ethics.

Separately, the IFJ has welcomed measures by the Indian Government easing the visa process for journalists, doctors, academics and elderly people from Pakistan. The measures also include allowing Pakistani’s to travel more extensively in India by permitting 12 destinations on each visit instead of the currently allowed three and a relaxed requirement for police reporting.

“We welcome the recent efforts by the Indian Government in the name of greater press freedom and encourage other countries in the region to follow suit,” said Warren.

For more information please contact Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668
The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries