News

July 16, 2019

RSF calls for release of Indian woman journalist held by Hyderabad police

Screenshot of Revathi Pogadadanda’s show on Mojo TV (photo: Mojo TV / RSF).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about the increasingly hostile climate for journalists in India and, in particular, calls for the immediate release of Revathi Pogadadanda, a TV journalist held for the past four days in Hyderabad, the capital of the southern state of Telangana, on the absurd grounds of “insulting” a guest.

A programme host with Mojo TV (which she used to run), Revathi Pogadadanda was arrested at her home on the morning of 12 July, when she covered her arrest in a series of tweets: “Cops at my doorstep! They want to arrest me without a warrant. They tell me am creating a law and order problem!”

 

The police arrested her in response to a complaint by one of the participants in a discussion programme she hosted in January about a recent court order allowing women to enter a Hindu temple. The guest accused Pogadadanda of insulting him when she defended women’s rights.

 

Without offering any further explanation, the police say she has been arrested under a 2015 law on the “prevention of atrocities” against “scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.” The police could continue to hold her provisionally for up to 14 days.

 

“Taking a journalist into police custody on such illogical grounds clearly amounts to arbitrary detention,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.  “We call for Revathi Pogadadanda’s immediate release and an end to all attempts to intimidate her. Her arrest is all the more worrying for coming amid a decline in the past ten days in the situation of Indian journalists, regardless of their speciality.”

 

Clampdown

 

Harshad Ahir, the bureau chief of the Gujarat Mitra daily newspaper in Valsad, a city in the western state of Gujarat, was physically attacked in his home on 6 July by the former chief of a village on the edge of the city and two accomplices, who also hit his wife and 18-month-old daughter. The attack was prompted by an article a few days before about the poor execution of government-funded improvements to a lake in the village.

 

In New Delhi, politics and business reporters discovered last week that the finance ministry has introduced new rules limiting access to the ministry. Contrary to previous practice, no journalist, not even accredited ones, can enter the building without an appointment. The new regulation is widely seen as a deliberate policy decision to restrict the media’s access to state-held information by banning informal contacts with ministry officials.

 

The Entertainment Journalists’ Guild of India and the Press Club of India received a grotesque legal notice last weekend from lawyers representing Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut. It threatened them with a lawsuit unless they withdraw their “wrongful, immoral, unethical and illegal” support for Justin Rao, a journalist with the Press Trust of India news agency who was insulted at length by Ranaut at a recent press conference. In a video, Ranaut also refers to many of the Indian media as “enemies of the nation.”

 

India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, two places lower than in 2018.