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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

NewsClick arrests: Digipub News India Foundation, media students stage protest

Progressive lawyers’ body calls for repeal of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under which arrested NewsClick functionaries have been booked

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 06.10.23, 05:50 AM
Progressive organisations hold a protest at Freedom Park on Thursday against the action on NewsClick.

Progressive organisations hold a protest at Freedom Park on Thursday against the action on NewsClick. KM Rakesh

Several progressive organisations and Digipub News India Foundation, which represents online news portals, held a protest here on Thursday against the arrests of NewsClick bosses and the harassment meted out to its employees and consultants.

Members of the All India Lawyers Association for Justice (AILAJ), Bahutva Karnataka, a coalition of progressive outfits and individuals, People’s Union of Civil Liberties, All India Students Association and the Network of Women in Media gathered at Freedom Park in the city.

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Joined by students of media studies from several institutions and common people who came forward to express solidarity with the cause, the protesters raised slogans against hounding journalists and targeting media houses in the first such protest in Bangalore over the NewsClick raids.

In its statement condemning the action, AILAJ noted that it was the relentless assault on the media that had led to the country’s low ranking in the press freedom index.

“Unsurprisingly, India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries as per the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, as a consequence of the relentless assault on free press and the freedom of speech, and the increased use of draconian laws such as UAPA against journalists performing professional duties,” the progressive lawyers’ body stated, citing the “chilling effect” such acts can have on independent media.

“AILAJ believes that this attack on the freedom of the press is meant to and will have a chilling effect on journalists and independent media portals which have taken over the role of being a public watchdog, which the Godi media has all but abandoned.”

The organisation also called for the repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under which the arrested NewsClick functionaries have been booked.

“The continued use of the draconian UAPA to target those who dissent and speak truth to power again highlights the need to demand the repeal of this draconian law. AILAJ requests for all members of the legal fraternity to stand up and fight this assault on the Constitution while remembering the words of Justice Matthew in the Bennett Coleman case, that ‘The constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech is not so much for the benefit of the press as it is for the benefit of the public’.”

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists condemned the attempt to “intimidate” journalists from carrying out their duty.

“This can only be viewed as part of an attempt by the authorities to arm-twist and intimidate the journalists into refraining from pursuing news. This amounts to encroachment on the freedom of media and a blatant violation of democratic rights,” Kerala’s principal trade union representing media professionals demanded in a statement.

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