India: Uttar Pradesh police arrest journalist for social media posts

Transcontinental Times journalist Prashant Kanojia has been arrested at his Delhi residence on August 18 for his social media posts that allegedly “disturbed communal harmony”. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) are concerned by the arrest and urge the government to stop harassing journalists.

Journalist Prashant Kanojia . Credit: Prashant Kanojia /facebook

Uttar Pradesh Police arrested Kanojia at around 1.30 pm on Tuesday, without  providing any reason. According to his wife, Agisha Arora, around five or six people, one of them in  police uniform, arrested the journalist at their residence. However, a First Information Report (FIR) filed at the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on  August 17, accuses the journalist of disrupting communal harmony via his social media posts. The FIR alleges that Kanojia, edited a Facebook post of Shushil Tiwari, a member of the right-wing group called the Hindu Army, and shared it on his Facebook page with intent to defame Tiwari. The FIR also accuses Kanojia of posting the same morphed image in Twitter on  August 16, 2020 with  a message that could be interpreted as Tiwari ordering  a ban on the entry of members of the certain lower caste  members or tribes into the Ram temple.

Earlier, in the first week of April, a FIR was filed against  Kanojia for making what was alleged to be objectionable remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on social media. Similarly in June 2019, Kanojia was picked up from his residence for “a post he shared about a woman wanting to marry the chief minister”.

The Transcontinental Times is an independent news outlet that prides itself on being committed to public interest and democratic values.

The IJU Secretary General Sabina Inderjit said: “Uttar Pradesh government’s intimidation, harassment and arrest of Kanojia is against the freedom of speech and expression. The government must stop misusing law to supress freedom of expression and the press.” 

The IFJ said: “The IFJ has documented a number of cases in India in 2020 where authorities have attempted to silence  independent media, particularly journalists who are  critical of political leaders. We are deeply concerned by such  unacceptable actions and urge the authorities to withdraw the case against Kanojia.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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