news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | June 28, 2014 | 5.09 pm IST

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has raised concerns about press freedom in India since the new government assumed office.

In a news report titled “Worrisome curbs on free speech emerge since Modi's election”, the CJP’s Asia research associate Sumit Galhotra lists instances of “voices critical of India's new prime minister have come under fire”.

The case include the arrests of seven people in Kerala for publishing a photo of Modi along with those of Osama bin Laden, Hilter, Kasab, George Bush and others. The second case is of Devu Chodankar in Goa who posted comments on Facebook about a repeat of the Holocaust. The third case was the detention of Syed Waqas Barmawar for circulating a message on social messaging application Whatsapp.

Galhotra also mentions instances of how journalists have attracted the ire of Modi supporters when they have written about Modi in a critical manner. 

A columnist for The Guardian Priyamvada Gopal received vitriolic comments and even calls for sexual violence against her for her views. The opinion piece discussed Modi’s links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. 

Quoting Supreme Court lawyer Nikhil Mehra, Galhotra writes: “Mehra says the problem is a continuation of free-speech curbs that also occurred under the Congress-led government over the past decade, and is due largely to Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and poor law enforcement. "Primarily because we don't have a well-defined political speech exception in Indian law, statements regarding the (prime minister) have been dragged into the net of 66A," he told CPJ. Many vaguely worded colonial-era laws also have a chilling effect on free speech, he said. "However, 66A takes it to a different level."”

CPJ is a non-profit organization which promotes press freedom.

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