International Media Freedom organisations on Tuesday urged the Modi government to drop all cases against journalists. Austria-headquartered International Press Institute and the Belgian-based International Federation of Journalists in a joint statement called on Modi to withdraw all charges against journalists, including those under draconian sedition laws that have been imposed on them for their work. The 'Global Media Group' also demanded the PM to take immediate steps to ensure that journalists can work without fear or abuse.
The Press Association also accused Modi of using the coronavirus pandemic to silence the criticisms.
According to a study by the Right and Risk Analysis Group, the government has targeted 55 journalists for covering the pandemic between March 25 ( when the lockdown was first imposed) and May 31, the letter noted.
" The number of cases filed against journalists has increased enormously after the spread of the pandemic," the letter read. "The present health crisis is being used as an excuse to silence those who have exposed shortcomings in the government's response to it. A free media is essential to a successful public health response." it further read.
According to a study by the International Press Institute, there has been an enormous increase in journalists being charged for sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, with up to three years to life in prison.
Siddique Kappan, a Kerala-based journalist who went to visit the home of a Dalit girl who was tortured in Hathras on October 5, was arrested and charged with sedition, the report said. Apart from Kappan, the report highlighted the sedition cases against senior journalists like Vinod Dua, Dhaval Patel and Kamal Shukla.