Supreme Court quashes sedition case against journalist Vinod Dua

Updated on June 3, 2021:

The Supreme Court quashed the FIR against Vinod Dua on sedition and other charges, filed by a local BJP leader in June 2020 , stating that every journalist should be protected as per the Kedar Nath Singh judgement, which held the limits of sedition to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order; or incitement to violence.”

End of update.

Previous report dated June 26, 2020:

Following an FIR against journalist, Vinod Dua, by the Delhi Police based on a complaint by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Spokesperson, Navin Kumar, was stayed by the Delhi High Court stating charges as “unwarranted and unjustified” harassment to the petitioner, another FIR was filed by the Shimla Police, this time for Sedition.

The complaint by BJP leader, Ajay Shyam, alleged that Dua had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks”. He also accused Dua of instigating violence by spreading “fake news,” about the communal violence in Delhi on his YouTube show.  Reviewing Dua’s petition the Supreme Court granted Vinod Dua protection from arrest till July 6. However, the three-judge bench comprising of Justices UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar and V Saran refused to stay the investigation, the Himachal Pradesh Police may investigate the petitioner as offered by him to cooperate through video conferencing or online mode and also at his residence after the Police gives a prior notice of 24 hours said the court order.

The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and the Himachal Pradesh State government and expects a complete status report before the next hearing on July 6. Appearing for Dua, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said that the FIR was a “harassment” for airing views unpalatable to the government. “If what Dua said is sedition, then only two channels can function in the country,” he added.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the charges filed against Vinod Dua, “Bharatiya Janata Party officials should stop filing frivolous complaints against Vinod Dua and other journalists, which are clear attempts to silence critical reporting,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, in New York. “Criticism goes hand in hand with democracy, and is not a seditious act. The investigations into Dua’s work should be dropped immediately,” she added.

The Delhi Union of Journalist (DUJ) said, this is a, “misuse of the law to silence a critical voice.”

Senior Journalist and Founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan called this a “harassment”. “The charge of ‘sedition’, sending cops to his home at 7 am is simply outrageous,” he said.

Earlier, The Editors Guild of India had raised concerns over the growing tendency among Police in various states to take cognisance of frivolous charges against journalists and convert them into FIR’s.

Meanwhile, between March 25 and May 31, as many as 55 journalists, faced arrest and registration of FIRs, summons or show causes notices, physical assaults, alleged destruction of properties and threats for reportage on COVID-19 or exercising freedom of opinion and expression, according to a report by the Rights and Risks Analysis Group.

Know More: [Sedition Cases] SC Grants Interim Protection From Arrest To Senior Journalist Vinod Dua [Read Order]

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World Broadcasting Unions calls for commitment to media freedom

The World Broadcasting Unions (WBU) released a statement on July 27, calling for commitment to media freedom and independence in times of crisis. It urged for guaranteed commitments on protecting media independence and safeguarding freedom of expression.

“Media independence is a cornerstone of informed, healthy democracies and central to the values of broadcasters, which also include accuracy, accountability, impartiality, the highest standards of journalism, and the commitment to serve the interests of all audiences everywhere. These are crucial at the best of times. During times of crisis, they are non-negotiable,” WBU said.

The WBU, which is a coordinating body for broadcasting unions across the globe, insisted on the importance and the role of journalism in providing accurate and verified news content as critical to countering the spread of misinformation and disinformation. “An independent media also serves the public interest through rigorous scrutiny and the holding to account. Any exceptional measures introduced by governments in the context of a public emergency must not therefore be used to undermine the ability of the media to freely report on those emergencies, whether they be pandemics or protest movements,” WBU added.

However, journalists are being targeted nevertheless, “In recent documented cases, for example during the George Floyd protests in America, news reporters – including those representing Members of the WBU – have been subjected to unacceptable acts of aggression and intimidation,” the statement added.

“The freedom of the media to report unhindered on unfolding events – and the rights of citizens to have access to trusted information for deciphering them – is fundamental to free speech and society. It must not be compromised in any circumstances,” WBU said.


WBU Statement Calling for Commitment to Media Freedom and Independence in Times of Crisis