Authorities in Uttar Pradesh must immediately release Nation Live journalists Anuj Shukla and Ishita Singh, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Yesterday, Uttar Pradesh police arrested Shukla, the editor of privately owned TV news broadcaster Nation Live, and Singh, the head of the station, and charged them with attempting to incite violence and for defaming the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, according to news reports.
In a statement on Twitter, police said the broadcaster “conducted a panel discussion without checking facts on ‘defamatory allegations’ made by a woman against the CM [chief minister].”
Shukla and Singh are currently detained in the Noida Phase 3 police station in Uttar Pradesh, according to the police statement. They are set to be presented before a magistrate tomorrow for a bail hearing, as required under Indian law, according to the statement.
“Police in India should not imprison journalists for criticizing politicians, let alone for hosting criticism of them on their networks, and must respect press freedom,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director, in New York. “Authorities should immediately release Anuj Shukla and Ishita Singh.”
The police investigation began yesterday after workers from a political party lodged a complaint against the news channel for allegedly broadcasting statements without verifying facts, according to Indian news portal Scroll.in. Neither the news reports nor the police statement state the name of the political party.
The local senior superintendent of police told Indian news agency IANS that, during a debate on Nation Live on June 6, a participant made allegedly defamatory statements against Adityanath which could have led to “a possible law and order situation.”
When asked for comment, police referred CPJ to their statement on Twitter.
Also on June 8, Uttar Pradesh police arrested Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist based in Delhi, for sharing footage of the debate on social media along with comments that police said maligned the image of the chief minister, according to Scroll.in.
Last week, Karnataka police opened a similar defamation investigation against the editor of a Kannada-language newspaper for publishing a news article alleging conflict within the family of the state’s chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, as CPJ reported at the time.