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Asia Minute: Indian Journalist Jailed for Criticizing Government

Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

A journalist in northern India has been jailed for criticizing the government. The organization “Reporters Without Borders” calls it a “shocking warning for the entire journalistic profession.”

The trouble began for the Indian television journalist when he posted a video on Facebook.

Kishorechandra Wangkhem works for ISTV in the northeastern state of Manipur — a region with a population of about three million. In his job he does both straight reporting and editorial commentary.

The video was on the commentary side – calling the chief minister of the state a “puppet” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and criticizing a Hindu nationalist group.

Police arrested him last month on charges of sedition. A judge moved quickly to release him — calling the video “a mere expression of opinion against the public conduct of public figures.”

But authorities then charged the journalist under the National Security Act — which allows anyone to be incarcerated for up to a year without any trial.

Indian media reports say he will be detained for a full year — the maximum possible sentence. Reporters Without Borders is demanding the journalist’s immediate release — saying “the arbitrary nature of this detention order is unworthy of Indian democracy.”

Credit kremlin.ru
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Indian government officials often refer to the country as the world’s largest democracy.

According to the World Press Freedom Index put together by Reporters Without Borders, India currently ranks 138 out of 180 countries — just below Myanmar and just above Pakistan.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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