New Delhi: Two senior journalists of Manipuri news portal, Frontier Manipur, were detained on Sunday for alleged sedition over an article published on January 8, critical of the state’s militancy movement. They were later released after spending one night in custody, with the police saying that the “case is not closed” yet, according to a report in The Wire.
“Soon after their release on January 18, inspector Sanjoy Potsangbam of Sinjamei Police station told The Wire, “They were detained, not arrested. After questioning, we have released them but the case is not closed. So far, we have not been after to trace the author of the article which was published by The Frontier Manipur” the report said.
The two journalists were reportedly booked under draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for “supporting a terror organisation’. The arrests have been made on the basis of a suo motu FIR registered by the Manipur Police.
The arrest of the Manipuri news portal’s editor-in-chief Dhiren Sadokpam and executive editor Paojel Chaoba was confirmed to Indian Express by their lawyer, Chongtham Victor, even as Imphal West SP, K Meghachandra Singh confirmed Chaoba’s arrest but did not comment in Sadokpam’s.
The article that triggered the arrests was written by M Joy Luwang, titled “Revolutionary Journey in a Mess”. Luwang has also been named in the FIR.
According to Scroll.in , the article was a “critical indictment of Manipur’s many armed groups who have waged an armed secessionist movement since the 1960s.”
In the article, the author accused the groups of “falling prey to the Indian government’s design of breaking their backbones” and not living up to the “revolutionary” ideals they were formed with.
The FIR filed by the police accuses the author as he “openly endorsed revolutionary ideologies and activities and expressed… dismay at the deteriorating character of the armed revolutionary leaders of Manipur in the recent decade”.
“His article clearly expressed sympathy and support to the ideologies and activities of the armed revolutionary groups and outrightly called the rule of law of the Union and State government as colonial law…,” it said.
According to the Scroll.in report, although the FIR was filed and case registered on Sunday afternoon, a police team landed up at Chaoba’s house early Sunday morning itself, according to Sadokpam.
“They demanded that Chaoba went with them to the police station, but he refused saying that he would go on his own,” the editor –in chief said. Later, a lawyer representing Chaoba said the executive editor went to the police station on Sunday and was allegedly detained and continues to be in police custody, the report added.
The editor-in-chief Sadokpam , who was also summoned to the police station, while speaking to Scroll.in on his way, said, “We received the piece on email and we decided to publish it as it was a balanced analytical article. If anything, it was critical of the armed movement. As a website, we publish critical views of both the government and the armed groups.”
This is not the first time that journalists have been charged for sedition in Manipur. In fact, this is becoming a trend across the country, when not just journalists but the wider citizenry has been slapped with draconian charges for social media posts or tweets critical of the ruling dispensation.
In Manipur, there have been many such cases against people who were critical of the ruling party or expressed some kind of dissent. For example in July last year, activist Erendro Leichombam was charged with sedition for an alleged image that he uploaded on Facebook.
In 2018, Kishorechandra Wangkhem, the associate editor of Frontier Manipur, was booked for sedition and charged under the National Security Act after he posted a Facebook video critical of Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was kept behinds bars for four months.
In 2020, Wangkhem was charged with sedition again and was in jail for two months.
In 2020, Jawaharlal Nehru University research scholar Mohammad Chingiz Khan and Gauhati University assistant professor Mohammad Imtiyaj Khan were charged with sedition after a translation of their old opinion article on issues faced by Manipuri Muslims appeared in a local newspaper.