Journalists in Kerala, under the banner of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), the largest body of journalists in the state, staged protests across the state, against the arrest of Siddique Kappan by Uttar Pradesh police. Tuesday, October 5, marked a year of Kappan's arrest, charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). He was arrested when he was en route to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, to report on the incident where a Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped and murdered by dominant caste men.
On Tuesday, journalists assembled in front of the General Post Office in Thiruvananthapuram, raising placards calling for the release of Siddique Kappan. KUWJ also held protests in various districts."The illegal detention of journalist Siddique Kappan is an infringement of press freedom in the country," Suresh Vellimangalam, KUWJ Thiruvananthapuram president, told TNM.
Speaking at the protest gathering organised in Kozhikode Press club, Shreyams Kumar, Member of Parliament and the Managing Director of Mathrubhumi group, said that incidents like these will harm the foundation of democracy. "This is a time when journalists require courage to give truthful news without fear," he said, extending solidarity to the protest.
Inaugurating the protest held by the KUWJ members in Thiruvananthapuram, Opposition Leader of Kerala Assembly, VD Satheesan, said, "The ruling regime is giving out the message that by using the draconian laws in the country, journalists can be put behind bars and that no one should raise their voice against them. Everyone's last hope is the judicial system in the country. They shouldn't ignore this issue."
Over the past year, various journalist groups from KUWJ to the International Press Institute (IPI), an international network that aims to protect press freedom, have come out against the arrest of Kappan, seeking his release.
Siddique Kappan, a Malappuram native, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on October 5, 2020, along with three members of the Popular Front of India. They were accused of having the intention to 'disrupt peace', and were charged under UAPA.
In the recently submitted 5,000-page chargesheet, the Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh police claimed that Kappan's reporting on victims of riots, most of whom were Muslims, amounts to âcommunal reporting.â They also listed 36 news stories Kappan wrote, claiming that they 'incite violence' and were 'irresponsible' reporting. However, the articles range from anti-CAA protests, the Nizamuddin Markaz conference, the northeast Delhi riots, and other news that have been reported multiple times by other media in Kerala, including the accidental death of a journalist.
His family has raised serious allegations of ill-treatment of Kappan by the Uttar Pradesh police while he was admitted to a hospital after being infected with COVID-19 a few months ago. In a letter to the Chief Justice of India, Kappan's wife Raihanath alleged that Kappan was tied to a bed in the hospital and was not even allowed to go to the toilet.
In April, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan responded in the case for the first time when he wrote to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, requesting him to ensure medical attention and humane treatment to Siddique Kappan after he was hospitalised due to COVID-19.
In June this year, while reacting to the media for the first time since his arrest, when being presented to a court in Uttar Pradesh, Siddique Kappan said that he was being charged in a fake case. âI want justice. I believe in our Constitution, but justice is being delayed. This is a completely fake case," he had said.