NEW DELHI: Journalist Prashant Kanojia’s arrest by the Uttar Pradesh police for “defaming” Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath “is not murder”, the Supreme Court said today, ordering his release.
The top court was hearing a petition by Mr Kanojia’s wife, challenging his arrest on Saturday. “Normally we don’t entertain these type of petitions. But a person can’t spend 11 day’s in jail,” the Supreme Court said.
A total of five people, including Mr Kanojia, were arrested in two days on charges of posting allegedly objectionable content about the Chief Minister. The arrests over the weekend sparked a huge debate on social media on freedom of expression in the country, with the Editors Guild of India terming the journalists’ arrests “high-handed and arbitrary”. The editors’ body had said it amounted to “authoritarian misuse of laws”.
Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist, was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in Delhi on Saturday for a tweet that had “objectionable comments” on Yogi Adityanath. Mr Kanojia, was picked up from his home in Delhi after a complaint by a police officer in Lucknow, alleging he tried to “malign” Yogi Adityanath’s image. He had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside Yogi Adityanath’s office, claiming that she had sent him a marriage proposal.
The same evening, the head of a private news channel and its editor were arrested in Noida. During a debate on the channel on June 6, the woman, whose video was shared by Prashant Kanojia, had allegedly made defamatory statements against Yogi Adityanath, the police said.