A journalist jailed for making derogatory comments on social media against a chief minister with the ruling-right wing party was ordered released by India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (11).
Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist, was arrested Saturday after he uploaded and commented on a video of a woman claiming to be in love with Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu monk who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state.
“The judges have directed (the) immediate release of Prashant today,” defence lawyer Shadan Farasat told reporters.
Local media reports said the judges had criticised the high-handed manner of Kanojia’s arrest, calling it “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
The court however said its order should not be seen as approval of Kanojia’s social media posts and that legal proceedings against him would continue according to law.
The head of a local news channel that broadcast the video shared by Kanojia has also been arrested along with one of the editors, for operating without a license.
A fourth person was arrested Monday for allegedly uploading altered images of Adityanath on Facebook.
The Editors Guild of India had slammed Kanojia’s arrest, calling the police action “arbitrary” and “an authoritarian misuse of laws”.
“The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression,” it said in a statement on Sunday.
In recent years, laws have frequently been deployed by politicians from all parties seeking to stifle social media criticism.
Last month, a ruling party activist was arrested for posting a meme on opposition West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. She was later released on bail by the Supreme Court.
A journalist in northeastern Manipur state was jailed last year for allegedly criticising the state’s BJP chief minister and prime minister Narendra Modi.