Two police men in civilian clothes arrested Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist from his Delhi residence on Saturday afternoon due to some "objectionable comments" made against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Twitter. He was arrested only after posting a video on his social media platform regarding a woman claiming to be in love with the UP CM.
Prashant Kanojia had shared a video on social media in which a woman is seen speaking to reporters outside the CM's office claiming she has been in talks with Adityanath for a year and wanted to know if the monk-politician was willing to spend his life with her. Prashant then mocked the CM over the video and remarked in Hindi "Ishq chupta nahi chupane se Yogi ji" (Love cannot be hidden even if you try to hide it)
Ishq chupta nahi chupaane se yogi ji pic.twitter.com/dPIexKheou— Prashant Jagdish Kanojia (@PJkanojia) June 6, 2019
He has been tweeting against other BJP minister's since a long time. But maligning the CM's image led to serious consequences for him.
AN FIR was registered against Prashant at Lucknow's Hazratganj police station, under Indian Penal Code Sections 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 500 (criminal defamation) and 67 of the Information Technology Act (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form).
The Editors Guild on Sunday condemned the arrests of a journalist, the editor and the head of a television channel over alleged objectionable content describing the action by the police as an "authoritarian misuse of laws" and an effort to intimidate the press.
Wife's Plea over the Arrest
Prashant's wife Jagisha Arora has filed a habeas corpus (bring the person) petition challenging the arrest of Kanojia. The Supreme Court took note of the plea filed by the spouse and set up a vacation bench comprising of Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi, who asked for an urgent hearing as the arrest was considered "illegal" and "unconstitutional".
Other People Arrested for Defaming Adityanath
The head of a Noida-based news channel that had broadcast the video has also been arrested, along with one of the editors of the channel. They were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh government. Another person was arrested in Gorakhpur on Sunday for 'defaming' Adityanath, making it the fourth such arrest in the last three days.
Prashant Kanojia earlier worked for a news website, The Wire. Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire, tweeted regarding his arrest by pasting a screenshot of his tweet, and added,
Shocking for UP cops to arrest anyone for posting this news clip with a comment of his own. Adityanath perhaps doesn't know this woman and may consider the fact that Prashant took her claim of having video-chatted with him at face value 'objectionable'. But arrest is abuse of law https://t.co/A8wcfwnW5L— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) June 8, 2019
To bring the journalist back, the hashtag #ReleasePrashantKanojia was trending on Twitter.
For the Action
Prashant Patel Umrao is a practicing advocate at the Supreme Court and Social Activist, also tweeted saying that Kanojia was a serious abuser.
Those who are making Koharram to #ReleasePrashantKanojia, must know that he is Serious offender, serial abuser, troll & hate monger, not a journalist.— प्रशान्त पटेल उमराव (@ippatel) June 8, 2019
He was suspended from Indian Institute of Mass Communication for abusing a senior faculty.
Against the Action
Democracy News Live Editor-in-chief Rohit Gandhi went on to tweet about this issue and spoke about how power is being misused by the UP Government.
The arrest of a journalist based on his tweets is not how a #democracy should work. A statement is required by the government on what grounds is the arrest. Also, have the main body the #presscouncilofindia involved in the process. #india— Rohit Gandhi (@rohitgandhi_) June 9, 2019
I don't support the comment by this journalist about a priest/politician. But to arrest him is misuse of power. He passed a lose comment, unbecoming of how a journalist should behave. But #UPpolice should not over step it's jurisdiction. @CPJAsia @CPJAmericas https://t.co/UawTHs7pV0— Rohit Gandhi (@rohitgandhi_) June 9, 2019