Two editors of Kannada tabloids were sentenced to one year imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 10,000 each.

Karnataka Assembly sentencing of journalists unjust Amnesty International demands withdrawalImage for representation
news Media Friday, June 23, 2017 - 18:46

Calling the Karnataka Assembly Speaker KB Koliwad’s sentencing of two editors of Kannada tabloids unjust, human rights organisation Amnesty International has demanded the withdrawal of the sentence. 

On June 22, two editors of Kannada tabloids were sentenced to one year imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 10,000 each for allegedly publishing defamatory articles. 

The two journalists-Ravi Belagere of Hi Bangalore and Anil Raju of Yelahanka Voice-have been accused of publishing defamatory articles against Congress MLA from Siraguppa BM Nagaraj and BJP MLA from Yelahanka SR Viswanath respectively. 

The two MLAs had filed a complaint with the Privileges Committee in the Assembly. 

“Journalists must have the freedom to write critical articles, and politicians must be able to tolerate criticism,” said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India. “If individuals feel that their reputations have been affected, they can take recourse to civil defamation remedies in court.”

“All persons have a right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal. Breach of privilege laws allow politicians to become judges in their own cause, raising concerns of conflict of interest and violating basic fair trial guarantees. These laws must go,” Asmita Basu said. 

Amnesty International states that according to the UN Human Rights Committee, which takes note of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)--to which India is a state party--‘all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition’.

So forms of expression considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties, according to the ICCPR.