International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by the January 28
conviction of Anish Trivedi, a one-time columnist for the Mumbai-based
afternoon daily Mid-Day on charges of causing offence to communities
disadvantaged by India’s
traditional caste hierarchy.
column published in 2006, Trivedi argued that the dismal performance of many of
institutions of governance was a consequence of the policy of affirmative
action, which assured disadvantaged communities representation in the staffing
of all these institutions. He followed up this assessment with remarks on individuals
belonging to these communities that aroused serious resentment.
city police soon afterwards took up the prosecution of this matter on the basis
of a complaint received from aggrieved private citizens.
28, a trial court in Mumbai sentenced Trivedi to a six-month term of
imprisonment and a fine of INR 25,000 (USD 535).
The IFJ is
informed that Trivedi had, even before the formal institution of charges against
him, apologised unconditionally in the columns of Mid-day, and retracted
all the observations made.
recognises that affirmative action was introduced for the benefit of people and
communities disadvantaged by historical circumstances, and is a part of the
settled political consensus in India,”
IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline
also supportive of the special legislation introduced by the Indian government
to curb atrocities – in both word and deed – against these communities.”
however, is unsure about the wisdom of sentencing a columnist to a six-month
term of imprisonment for remarks that he has apologised for. In normal
circumstances, the right of reply granted unconditionally to any individual or
community that may have reason to feel aggrieved by a published opinion, would
be considered fair compensation. If that is deemed insufficient, then an
apology by the author of the offending piece would be called for, accompanied
by a full retraction of his opinion.
procedures appear to have been followed by Mid-day, despite which the
columnist has earned a prison term”, Ms Park said.
“The IFJ supports
public debate in India
on the norms that should be applied in matters involving the sensitivities of
particular communities. Free speech cannot be construed as the right to cause
offence. Yet there should be sufficient safeguards to allow for expressions of
opinion that would contribute to the public dialogue on important issues of
been granted bail by the Mumbai trial court, pending appeal.
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
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