The arrest of a journalist in India for sharing an unverified video of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has sparked a row, with some defending the move and others branding it an attack on freedom of speech and expression.
Prashant Kanojia allegedly shared "objectionable" content against Chief Minister of the Uttar Pradesh state and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yogi Adityanath.
He tweeted a video about a woman claiming that she was in a relationship with Adityanath and she wished to marry him. He also posted a comment taunting the BJP leader over the matter.
Ishq chupta nahi chupaane se yogi ji pic.twitter.com/dPIexKheou— Prashant Jagdish Kanojia (@PJkanojia) June 6, 2019
A police complaint against the tweet was registered in Lucknow. He was subsequently arrested on Saturday afternoon by Uttar Pradesh Police while in his home in Delhi.
The arrest evoked furore amongst media and activist circles, with many demanding his immediate release.
The arrest.of @PJkanojia appears illegal because:— Karuna Nundy (@karunanundy) June 8, 2019
1. Section 500 IPC is on defamation, it's a private complainant, you can only be arrested if a court has convicted you of the offence.
2. Section 66 concerns causing damage to a computer system and doesn't apply here https://t.co/BSZXO2oeKw
Today it’s Prashant, tomorrow it can be you #ReleasePrashantKanojia ‘Protest March’ from Press Club of India to Parliament Date: Monday, June 10, Time: 1 pm— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) June 10, 2019
Why journalists’ arrest for sharing Adityanath video is a case of brazen high-handedness..
The arrest of #PrashantKanojia is a massive abuse of power and force by the UP government. CM Yogi Adityanath has yet again displayed BJP’s complete disdain for free speech and dissent, which are the bedrocks of any democracy. #FreePrashantNow https://t.co/sRWQbrcAZ3— Jignesh Mevani (@jigneshmevani80) June 9, 2019
However, some BJP supporters shot back at Kanojia, singling out one of his old tweets from 2016 in which he seemed to call for the killing of Hindu saints.
Kill saints and save humanity #SaveSaintsSaveHinduism— Prashant Jagdish Kanojia (@PJkanojia) September 3, 2016
Some social media users branded him a "Hinduphobic liar" who has been spreading fake news, and hailed the arrest by Uttar Pradesh police.
Tweets of Prashant Kanojia:— Anshul Saxena (@AskAnshul) June 9, 2019
1. Kill Saints
2. Hinduism is the worst religion on Earth
3. Dalits who claims to be Hindu are Animals
4. Hinduism a filth on Humanity
5. Hinduism is a fake religion with fake god hope it gets destroyed.
Note: Prashant is Journalist of The Wire
Great job @Uppolice. Keep that hate monger #PrashantKanojia in jail. Give proper treatment. New india cant tolerate fake news peddlers and hate propagandists. They should be behind bars. Plz keep an eye on this fake news peddler @thewire_in also. Jai hind 🙏👏👏— Anshuman (@Anshuman12) June 10, 2019
There is filth in the mind of Prashant Kanojia https://t.co/eH9EhZPBlp— Shesh Paul Vaid (@spvaid) June 10, 2019
Meanwhile, Jagisha Arora, the wife of Kanojia, has moved a petition in the apex court of India calling for his release.
The Editors Guild of India, a body of Indian journalists, also condemned the arrest of Kanojia, calling it a "Brazen misuse of power".
In a press statement issued on Sunday, the Guild said "Whatever the accuracy of the woman's claims, to register a case of criminal defamation against the journalists for sharing it on the social media and airing it on a television channel is a brazen misuse of law. To give the police powers to arrest, provisions of Section 66 of the IT Act have also been added."