NEW DELHI — Journalist bodies have called for dropping of charges against an Imphal-based journalist who was recently sentenced to one year in detention for criticising the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Manipur on social media.
The District Magistrate of Imphal West had ordered detention of Kishorechand Wangkhem, a 39-year-old journalist who works for a TV channel, on 27 November allegedly after he uploaded videos criticising the BJP-led governments in Manipur and the Centre for observing Rani Jhansi’s birth anniversary, a Manipur government order said.
According to a state home department statement issued on 14 December, the Advisory Board of the National Security Act (NSA), in its sitting held on 11 December, had examined the allegations levelled against Wangkhem.
On 13 December, the board recommended that there were “sufficient grounds” to detain the scribe under the provisions of the NSA.
The Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India, Press Association and Federation of Press Clubs in India in a joint statement said, “His statements do not seem an attempt to disturb peace...it was a mere expression of opinion which cannot be equated with an attack to invite people to violence against the Government of India or Manipur to topple it...”
“We, the undersigned journalist organisations express deep concern at the 12-month detention of a Manipur journalist, Kishorechand Wangkhem, under the National Security Act,” it said.
The statement said that to book individuals under non-bailable and harsh laws for allegedly using intemperate language to criticise government’s decisions or individuals in government, is a measure of “governmental overreach” apart from being a violation of the fundamental right to free speech.
“We demand that the harsh provisions under which Wangkhem has been booked be dropped in the interests of justice and the right to freedom of speech and expression,” it added.