Activists urge Gujarat common man to speak out

June 23rd, 2008 - 1:08 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Ahmedabad, June 22 (IANS) Condemning what they termed as attacks on the freedom of expression in Gujarat, leading activists and veteran journalists here Sunday urged the middle class to be vigilant about human rights. The occasion was a state-level conference on freedom of expression, organised by the JP Centenary Committee, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Movement for Secular Democracy and the voluntary organisation Prashant, in the aftermath of the Ahmedabad police commissioner’s move to file a case of sedition against three journalists for publishing a series of reports targeting him.

“When I saw the news in papers about the use of section 124-A (relating to sedition) of IPC (Indian Penal Code), I thought the state government was ridiculing the law,” said PUCL president Kannabhiran.

He recalled it was in this city 86 years ago that Mahatma Gandhi was prosecuted for sedition.

As he stood before Judge Broomfield, Gandhi termed section 124-A as the “prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”, Kannabhiran said.

Today the same law is used to prosecute people, he said, adding that it was the duty of the journalists to inform the readers.

Referring to a case against noted commentator Ashis Nandy for an article criticising the middle class for Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s electoral victory, Kannabhiran said: “Atrocities occur and the rule of law is subverted because the middle class is silent.”

Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar said the Editors Guild would not take the move against the media lying down. “No bending or crawling now. We will fight with all our might,” he said.

“I came here yesterday and I felt suffocated. People are not speaking. When you see truth being violated and you don’t speak, then you begin to die,” he said.

He appealed the Gujarat government to withdraw the sedition charge against the journalists, adding that “we are watching it”.

Justice (retired) Rajendra Sachar said any interference in the freedom of speech is “a treason of democracy”.

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