Maintaining physical distance and following the restrictions imposed by Section 144 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) in Kerala, five journalists stood in front of the General Post Office in Thiruvananthapuram and protested against the arrest of Siddique Kappan, a Malayali journalist based in Delhi, by the Uttar Pradesh police. Siddique, who went to Hathras to cover the alleged gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, was arrested and charged with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.
Media persons across all 14 districts of Kerala, along with journalists in Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai are protesting the arrest of Siddique Kappan, who was also the secretary of the Delhi unit of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ). â€śWe are protesting the Uttar Pradesh governmentâ€™s attempts to restrict media freedom,â€ť says KUWJ President of the Thiruvananthapuram chapter, Suresh Vellimangalam.
â€śHe went to report on the Hathras case. Even before he reached the spot he was taken into custody by the UP police. They did this under pressure from the government. No media person has been allowed to see or talk to Siddique Kappan after this. He was charged with the UAPA and sedition. He went there to report, how can that be sedition? The KUWJ condemns this strongly,â€ť Suresh says.
Five journalists including Suresh held placards, raising slogans to release Siddique Kappan, and stood in front of the GPO, as a mark of protest against the Central Government.
For Siddique Kappan,
Protect media freedom,
UP police show justice,
Free Siddique Kappan!â€ť
The slogans were raised as one journalist was replaced by another. Respecting the restrictions necessitated by COVID-19 protocol, the journalists did not prolong their morning protests or take a march as they usually do.
The Delhi unit of KUWJ wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for the release of Siddique, explaining his intention of going to Hathras to do his job as a reporter. The KUWJ also filed a habeas corpus in the Supreme Court seeking the immediate production of Kappan before the court.
The alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman by dominant caste men in Hathras and the hurried cremation in the night by the police had triggered nationwide outrage.
Watch: Kerala journalists protest the arrest of Siddique Kappan