Modi throttling freedom of expression, say citizens

June 7th, 2008 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Ahmedabad, June 7 (IANS) Condemning the Ahemdabad police commissioner’s complaint against three journalists whom he has charged with sedition, rights activists and concerned citizens have accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of attempting to throttle the freedom of the press. At a citizen’s meet this week organized by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Movement of Secular Democracy (MSD) and Prashant, an NGO, speaker after speaker criticised the state government for the police complaint against Times of India resident editor Bharat Desai, reporter Prashant Dayal and photojournalist Gautam Mehta.

Senior advocate and well-known human rights activist Girish Patel wondered how such an obsolete and archaic law under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was still allowed to remain in the statute book.

According to him, it is obvious that city police chief O.P. Mathur could not have filed the case without the state government’s approval. “It is strange that Mathur uses such obsolete laws as sedition to browbeat an organization. Don’t we have a right to know Mathur’s past?” Patel asked, referring to a series of reports the newspaper had carried targeting the official.

Vitthal Pandya, father of slain home minister Haren Pandya, held Modi responsbile for the police complaint. “The sedition charges levelled against the Times of India by Mathur are at the behest of the dictator,” he said.

Pandya has also urged Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma to protect freedom of expression.

“We are living in a fascist state. I certainly have my right to freedom of speech and freedom to practise my religion,” said Father Cedric Prakash of Prashant.

Mathur Sunday filed a first information report (FIR) against the three journalists under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 124-A (sedition) and 34 (defamation and conspiracy against the state and the police force) of the IPC.

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