The hounding of highly respected and eminent television journalist Vinod Dua by members of the ruling party is reminiscent of the days of Emergency from half a century ago when all independent voices were suppressed. Using multiple FIRs filed by ruling party members the Indian police has been intimidating and threatening to arrest Dua and others who have dared to present news or opinion critical of the current regime in power.
We call upon all those who support independent journalism in India to protest against the persecution of Vinod Dua and other journalists on 25th June 2020, which will also mark 45th anniversary of the infamous Emergency – and to highlight the Super Emergency the nation is being subjected to today.
While the Supreme Court has restrained Himachal Pradesh police from arresting veteran journalist Vinod Dua it has refused to stay investigations into a sedition case against him, based on a complaint lodged against him in Himachal Pradesh by a BJP leader for expressing opinion critical of the Indian government.
The cover of the COVID-19 crisis has also been used to suppress all basic democratic rights. According to a new report by the Rights and Risk Analysis Group as many as 55 journalists “faced arrest, registration of FIRs, summons or show cause notices, physical assaults, alleged destruction of properties and threats” for reporting on COVID-19 or “exercising freedom of opinion and expression during the national lockdown between March 25 and May 31, 2020.”
An FIR has also been filed against Aakar Patel, former head of Amnesty International in India for his tweet calling for national protests against the government. And as we write this news is coming in about an FIR against well-known journalist Supriya Sharma and the editor of Scroll for an article she wrote about people not getting rations in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency.
The manner in which the media and journalists are being targeted, often with the absurd charges of sedition or through covert and illegal surveillance methods is reflective of a direct dictatorship at play in the country. This is also reflected in the way human rights activists, academics, intellectuals, and students have been targeted, hounded, arrested and kept in various jails, often with no evidence to prove a single charge.
Under cover of the national lockdown the government has also arrested peaceful activists and students of Jamia Millia Islamia and JNU in Delhi, who protested non-violently against NRC/CAA, under draconian anti-terrorism laws such as UAPA. If it was an Emergency in the past, what Indians are going through now can only be called a Super Emergency. The only thing missing is a formal proclamation.
We call upon journalists from across the country to stand up for their right to freedom of expression, the right to dissent, and to report and comment on issues according to the established values enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
A nation-wide campaign is currently underway to mobilize and organize peaceful protests for the preservation of freedom of press, the right to report and write, the right to dissent, and to protect the basic values of the Indian Constitution. We call upon all journalists and media persons, including concerned citizens of the civil society, workers, farmers, trade unionists, teachers, professionals, students, artists, writers and academics, to join this campaign.
INDIAN DEMOCRACY MATTERS! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org