News

December 19, 2018

Indian journalist to be jailed for a year for criticizing Hindu nationalism

Kishorechandra Wangkhem (left) is to be jailed for a year for daring to criticize Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh (centre) and his support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (photos: Archives Wangkhemcha Wangthoi - AFP / PIB).
An Indian journalist in the northeastern state of Manipur is to be jailed without any form of trial for a year under the preventive detention provisions of the National Security Act simply for criticizing Hindu nationalism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Manipur’s chief minister in a video.

Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a reporter and editorialist with the TV channel ISTV, was formally notified of the decision by the Manipur authorities today.

 

In the offending video, posted on Facebook, Wangkhem referred to the region’s chief minister as a “puppet” of Prime Minister Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, National Volunteer Organization), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group.

 

“It is unacceptable that a journalist should be imprisoned for a year just for criticizing the government,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of the Asia-Pacific desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

 

“The determination with which the Manipur authorities have punished Kishorechandra Wangkhem with New Delhi’s blessing is a shocking warning for the entire journalistic profession. We demand his immediate release, especially as the arbitrary nature of this detention order is unworthy of Indian democracy.”

 

A year in prison without any trial

 

After posting the video, Wangkhem was initially arrested by the police in Imphal, the state capital, on a criminal code charge of sedition on 21 November. But a judge quickly released him on bail, saying the video was “a mere expression of opinion against the public conduct of public figures.”

 

Refusing to accept defeat, the authorities then resorted to the National Security Act to have Wangkhem arrested again on 26 November. This draconian law allows the authorities to detain anyone preventively on national security grounds for up to a year without any form of trial.

 

The Manipur authorities said he will be detained for a year in order to "prevent him from acting in any matter prejudicial to the security of the state.”

 

RSF issued an “incident report” in July about the danger that India will fall further in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. It is currently ranked 138th out of 180 countries.