As reported by RSF, Kappan was arrested in October 2020 while travelling from New Delhi to Uttar Pradesh to report on the alleged gang-rape and killing of a 19-year-old woman from the Dalit caste (formerly known as “untouchables”) in Hathras. He was charged with sedition and could face life imprisonment.
On 21 April he collapsed in prison and was taken to KM Medical College Hospital in the northern city of Mathura after testing positive for Covid-19. There he has been handcuffed to his bed and denied proper food and access to the toilet.
The journalist’s lawyer Wills Mathews provided RSF with a copy of a letter he sent to the head of the Indian Supreme Court requesting that his client be removed from hospital and returned to Mathura prison where he was likely to receive better treatment. It was a matter of humanitarian urgency, according to the lawyer. Kappan has diabetes and a heart condition.
“The unjustified detention of Siddique Kappan has turned into the worst of nightmares to the point where it is now a matter of life or death,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We ask the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, to order the immediate release of the reporter, who should never have been arrested for simply trying to do his job. If not, and he does not survive, the provincial authorities will bear responsibility for his death.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has spread alarmingly in India in recent days, with a catastrophic increase and hospitals overwhelmed. To deflect criticism, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to remove posts about the health crisis and the platforms complied with the requests.
The news site Medianama reported that the authorities had requested the censorship of dozens of posts by journalists on the social media sites, on the grounds that this was necessary to prevent the spread of rumours.
India lies in 142nd place out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.