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SAMDEN calls upon CM to release journalist and withdraw defamation suit

IMPHAL | Dec 26

Journalists, media forums and activists of the country have raised strong condemnations against the detention of Kishorchandra Wangkhem under NSA by the State government and urged for his immediate release.   

The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) which is a group of editors, journalists, bloggers and RTI leaders across several countries of South Asia as well as those of South Asian-origin based in UK and the US, have addressed CM, N. Biren in a letter written “out of concern on issues of freedom of expression and media rights in Manipur.” The organisation is concerned about the rights of journalists who face pressure from any quarter in the course of their professional duties or right to free expression, it said.

The organisation call on the State government to release him and clarify how his conduct and words, though seemingly inappropriate, threaten national security, it said. “We also note that he has since been dismissed from his job. His continued detention would be regarded as unjust, particularly in view of the court’s ruling that he had committed no cognisable offence,” it stated.

The letter further addressed, “Earlier in November you also filed a defamation suit against the editor, publisher and a reporter of the Imphal Free Press, for a report on “Biren loses 3rd CM rank: Was the celebration premature”, which described your celebration of the India Today CM Stock Exchange 6th episode ranking you as the 3rd best CM in India, since the competition was incomplete. We request you to kindly withdraw this suit against one of the oldest and more respected daily English language papers in Manipur.”

A copy of this letter has been forwarded to the Chair, State Human Rights Commission, it said.

Decrying the State government’s invocation of the draconian National Security Act 1980 to arrest Kishorchandra Wangkhem as utterly arbitrary, highhanded and vindictive, The National Media Forum, Bengaluru has urged CM to drop all charges made against him.

A statement addressed to CM, signed by convenor, Vijay Grover stated that as journalists from across India, and Bengaluru, “we are deeply disturbed by the decision to subject Manipur journalist Wangkhem Kishorchandra to one year of preventive detention over videos posted by him on Facebook criticising you.”

This is also evident from the fact that when Kishorchandra was picked up under NSA on November 27, it was actually a day after he had been released by an Imphal court from an attempt to frame him on the charge of sedition over the same videos, it said.

“Thus, your government resorted to NSA even after the social media posts, however intemperate their language, had been found to be posing no threat to public order, let alone national security, Your disproportionate reactions betray, besides an intolerance to dissent, a disdain for the rule of law and the constitutional balance between free speech and reasonable restrictions,” it stated.

The Forum urges the CM to end “this gross abuse of power” by dropping all charges against Kishorchandra and withdrawing immediately the action taken against him under NSA, it added.

The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) has expressed condemnations the arrest of Kishorchandra Wangkhem,anchor of ISTV, under the National Security Act.

A released signed by general secretary, Indrakumar Jain informed that the NSA was to be used against ‘enemy aliens’ and that too, during times of national emergencies or wars. However, it is increasingly being used against citizens in peacetime too, it stated. Wangkhem arrest is unprecedented and bodes ill for democracy, it added.

While the BUJ does not defend or endorse the abusive content of Wangkhem’s video, the remedy,if any, for such conduct lies in other provisions of the law and not such draconian  legislation like the NSA, it stated. The release further stated that the Manipur government’s decision smacks of a highly vengeful and intolerant attitude towards a dissenting voice. The BUJ urges the Manipur government to drop the NSA charge against Wangkhem and displayed a higher degree of magnanimity in dealing with dissension, it added.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM- ASIA) urging the release of Kishorchandra demanded to  stop repeated crackdown on dissent and democratic space.

On 16 December 16, Delhi police detained 35 members of Manipur Students’ Association, Delhi (MSAD) and Delhi Association of Manipur Muslim Students (DAMMS) while they were proceeding towards the Manipur Bhawan in New Delhi with the intention of a peaceful protest, said a release.

FORUM-ASIA is concerned over the repeated attacks and crackdown on dissent in India seen as the world’s largest democracy, it said. The Supreme Court of India has rightly acknowledged dissent as the safety valve of democracy, and it is time for the Government of India to respect and protect it, it added.

Office of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) also condemns arrest of Kishorchandra. The founder of the HRLN and senior advocate, Dr. Colin Gonsalves said, “Regarding the arrest of Kishorchandra, there has never been a case like this one before. The use of swear words is totally permissible under the constitution of India. It is a part of the freedom of speech and expression. Every journalist and every human rights activist to stand up and support Kishorchandra against the tyrannical used of law against him.”

He added “If there is anything the HRLN can do to help to support legally or otherwise, HRLN stands fully with him and we are sure of victory because what is done is totally unconstitutional.”


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