Siddharth Varadarajan

Over 3500 jurists, academics, actors, artists, writers and people from all walks of life have endorsed a statement expressing shock at the action of the Uttar Pradesh government and police under Yogi Adityanath in filing criminal charges against The Wire and one of its founding editors, Siddharth Varadarajan for an entirely factual story on the Covid-19 and religious events. This is a direct attack on freedom of the media.

The signatories call upon the Government of Uttar Pradesh to withdraw the FIR against Siddharth Varadarajan and The Wire, and drop all criminal proceedings.

Second, they urge the Government of India and all state governments not to use the pandemic as a cover to trample upon media freedom. A medical emergency should not serve as the pretext for the imposition of a de facto political emergency.

Third, the signatories call upon the Indian media to not communalise the pandemic.

The signatories include Justice Madan B. Lokur, Former Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice K. Chandru, former Judge of the Madras High Court, and Justice Anjana Prakash, former Judge of the Patna High Court.

Two former Chiefs of Naval Staff, Admiral Ramdas, and Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat have also signed, along with Yashwant Sinha, former External Affairs and Finance Minister of India.

Several former bureaucrats are signatories including Shivshankar Menon, Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser, Julio Ribeiro, Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania, MS Gill, former CEC, Narendra Sisodia, Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI, Anand Arni and Vappala Balachandran both former Special Secretaries RAW, and Sujatha Singh, Former Foreign Secretary.

Vikram Seth, Nayantara Sahgal, Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai, K. Satchidanandan and Kiran Desai are among the writers who have signed. The statement has also been endorsed by actors and artistes such as Amol Palekar, Naseeruddin Shah, Nandita Das, Farhan Akhtar, and Mallika Sarabhai. The sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, Atul Dodia, Rekha Rodwittiya and Vivan Sundaram are among the artists who have signed; Zoya Akhtar, Kiran Rao and Anand Patwardhan among the film-makers, and Dayanita Singh among the photographers.

Several journalists have also joined the demand for media freedom including Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, Manoj Joshi, forrmerly of The Times of India, and Bharat Bhushan, formerly of the Hindustan Times.

Other signatories include CU Singh, Senior Advocate SC, AGK Menon, architect and town planner, Shanta Sinha, former head of the NCPCR, and public figures like Devaki Jain, Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Swami Agnivesh, Aruna Roy and Yogendra Yadav.

Over a thousand Professors from universities across the globe, across disciplines from Sanskrit, Mathematics, Astrophysics, History, Anthropology etc., have signed, including Naresh Dadhich of IUCAA, T R Govindarajan of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, V. Vasanthi Devi, Former Vice-Chancellor, MS University, Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University, Kaushik Basu, Cornell University, Arjun Appadurai, NYU, Ganesh Devy, Ramachandra Guha, David Shulman, Hebrew University, Jan Breman, Leiden, Pranab Bardhan, UC Berkeley, Romila Thapar, JNU, Prasanjit Duara, Duke University, and Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University, Partha Chatterjee, CSSS Calcutta, to name just a fraction of the eminent academic signatories.

Bianca Jagger has signed on behalf of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, and Rachel Jolley on behalf of Index on Censorship among other organisations.

Finally, thousands of concerned citizens and individuals from across India and abroad have endorsed these demands, asking for an end to curbs on media freedom, no communal reporting and the quashing of the charges against Siddharth Varadarajan and The Wire.


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