IJU Slams the arrest of Delhi journalist
Hyderabad/Chandigarh, September 21: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) slammed the Delhi police for arresting a Delhi based freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) on 14 September for allegedly passing on defence secrets to China. He is a political analyst and writes on strategic affairs. He also contributes to the Global Times, the English language daily of the Communist Party of China.
In a statement issued on Monday, 21 September, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) President K Sreenivas Reddy, Secretary-General Balwinder Singh Jammu expressed surprise over the arrest of Rajeev Sharma under the antiquated Official Secrets Act even after the police themselves conceded that he did not leak information from the Defence ministry. The IJU pointed out that the Delhi police have the dubious distinction of arresting journalists on flimsy grounds and then get a rap from the higher judiciary. The IJU demanded that the police in general should inform the Press Council of India before arrest of a journalist.
“The Delhi police in earlier years arrest Iftikhar Gilani, a senior journalist then working for Kashmir Times for allegedly passing on sensitive information to Pakistan and S M K Kazmi working for an Iranian News Agency, for allegedly spying for Iran and the cases were quashed by the judiciary after the journalists suffered miserable time in jails. Their families suffered incalculable harassment and financial loss,” the statement pointed out.
The IJU demanded the immediate release of Rajeev Sharma, as he was only analysing the defence strategies on the basis information available in the public domain as a part of his journalistic work.
Facts, Not Views Central To Rajeev Sharma Case: IJU
New Delhi, 20 September 2020: The Indian Journalists Union notes with concern the arrest of veteran journalist, Rajeev Sharma, for alleged breach of the Officials Secrets Act. The OSA from 1923 is anti-deluvian and needs to be redrafted in light of the fast changing needs of the modern nation State. More so, keeping in mind what it connotes for an open democratic society such as ours.
There is a surfeit of information flow and one needs to assess that the documents that were allegedly passed were indeed sacrosanct military secrets, conveying of which is detrimental to our country’s interest and not merely something culled together from that available on a deep dive or research in public domain. Critical opinions or a differing perspective is to be respected, not necessarily anti-national and needs be delineated with care, particularly when it concerns the right to freedom of speech & expression as enshrined in Article 19 of our Constitution.
In a statement IJU President and former Member of Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit said that reputations are built over decades and can be spoilt in a just a jiff. The incident of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who was finally exonerated by the courts for a similar accusation comes to mind. This is not to defend anyone guilty of wrong doing or acting antithetical to the interest of our country. We do hope that the Delhi police and other agencies of Government of India have acted judiciously, keeping fairness and objectivity in mind and not witch-hunting. Finally, we will do well to always remember our nation’s motto from the time of the Mundaka Upanishad, “Satyamev Jayte”.