November 7, 2021
Supreme Court urged to restrain police from misusing UAPA
NEW DELHI — The Editors Guild of India and opposition parties in Tripura on Sunday slammed the state police for booking journalists and activists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their social media posts on communal violence that took place in Tripura in October.
Reports said that police have opened an investigation against 102 social media accounts including 68 Twitter handles, 32 Facebook pages and two YouTube channels of journalists, activists, rights groups and community leaders under different sections of Indian Penal Code including the UAPA, an anti-terror law, on the alleged charges of promoting hatred among communities through social media posts.
Tripura witnessed a spate of ant-Muslim violence by Hindu nationalists for more than a week in late October, attacking mosques and Muslim properties. The attacks were done in apparent retaliation to the violence in Bangladesh where Hindu temples and shrines were targeted by Muslims following allegations of desecration of the Holy Quran on October 13. The government of Bangladesh managed to contain violence by taking strict measures including arrest of culprits.
The Editors Guild said the cases against journalists under the UAPA was an “extremely disturbing trend”.
“Such a harsh law, wherein the processes of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence,” the Guild said.
It said that police cannot use UAPA against journalists to suppress reporting. The body also urged the Supreme Court to restrain police from using the UAPA against journalists. “Issue stringent guidelines on charging journalists under them, so that these laws don’t become an easy tool for suppressing press freedom,” the Editors Guild said.
Meanwhile, the Tripura unit of Congress demanded withdrawal of cases filed against journalists and activists.
“The mosque at Panisagar was attacked by activists of VHP and houses of minority communities were vandalized by them. They should be arrested first. I do not think the lawyers, who visited the state, came with any bad intentions and spread any communal hatred. Government should immediately withdraw charges against them,” state Congress chief Birajit Sinha told PTI.
CPI(M), On the other hand, said that cases under the UAPA against activists and journalists is an act of intolerance. “If they had done any illegal activity then normal law was enough to take actions against them,” the party which is in opposition in the state said in a statement.