India Freedom of Speech
Journalist unions, media groups condemn court order to arrest veteran journalist
Updated 2 February 2021
The High Court of the Indian state of Gujarat has suspended the 'non-bailable arrest warrant' (basically a prison term) for veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, according to media reports. The 65-year-old journalist is still being compelled to travel during a pandemic to attend court hearings in a 2017 defamation case that has acquired notoriety for its singling out of Paranjoy. This is manifestly unfair.
The arrest warrant was issued by a lower court in Gautam Adani's home state of Gujarat and sparked outrage. Journalist unions and other media groups, in India and internationally, condemned the move. AdaniWatch, too, condemned this persecution of a highly respected journalist. The warrant arose from the 2017 defamation case in which Adani has dropped proceedings against all other defendants.
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTS - Media Statement
22 January 2021
The IFJ said and its Indian affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) condemn the widespread misuse of defamation law in India to target journalists and silence the media.
“The targeting of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a despicable abuse of power and influence by the Adani Group that shows how India is falling foul to the weaponising and twisting of existing laws, including defamation law, to silence critics. The higher judiciary should recognise that defamation law has long been misused to impede press freedom in India.”
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS - MEDIA STATEMENT
22 January 2021
New Delhi, January 22, 2021 – Authorities in the Indian state of Gujarat should drop their arrest warrant for journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, and the Adani Group conglomerate should stop trying to intimidate journalists with legal harassment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
“It is outrageous for authorities to issue arrest warrants for defendants who don’t want to risk their lives in a pandemic to attend defamation hearings,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Gujarat authorities should rescind the arrest warrant for Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, and the Adani Group should immediately drop criminal proceedings and stop intimidating journalists.”
CPJ emailed the Adani Group for comment but did not receive any response. CPJ emailed the Kutch district court at the address listed on its website, but did not immediately receive any reply.
Opinion piece in The People's Review
22 January 2021
Arrest warrant for senior investigative journalist Paranjoy shows ‘shabby state’ of press freedom in India. Defamation suit a ‘weapon used by Adani to gag the free press’.
Free Speech Collective says arrest warrant for Paranjoy is 'punitive and intimidatory'.
The statement says 'the manner in which the warrant for the arrest of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta was issued despite his lawyer’s plea, is an excessively punitive response. Yagnik said that the journalist had remained present in prior hearings. Clearly, he has not made any attempt to evade any processes of justice. An arrest warrant, in this context, amounts to intimidation.
'Indeed, the extensive use of criminal defamation to censor and silence journalists has become the norm and strikes a blow against freedom of expression. Despite several attempts, it continues to remain in the statute books, a handy tool to browbeat journalists.'
Press statement by the Media Foundation: The Media Foundation condemns the arrest warrant against senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
New Delhi, Jan 21, 2021: The Media Foundation notes with deep dismay that a lower court in Gujarat’s Kutch region has issued an arrest warrant against senior journalist Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta in a defamation case filed by the Adani group.
In June 2017, Mr Thakurta co-authored an expose in the Economic & Political Weekly outlining how the Adani group was able to evade paying the required amount of duty for an export venture with some help from the government. This series of articles was later reproduced in a news website, The Wire. Subsequently, the Adani group dropped the defamation charges against the publishers, the website and the co-authors of the investigation, barring Mr Thakurta.
While we hope that the higher judicial forums will provide immediate relief to Mr Thakurta, it does need to be emphasised that this defamation case is a vindictive act and intended to intimidate journalists and discourage professional journalism. This is part of a larger emerging trend of powerful vested interests misusing the processes of law to harass and hound independent and intrepid reporters and commentators.
The Media Foundation expresses its solidarity with Mr Thakurta and stands by him.
Harish Khare, President, The Media Foundation
Mannika Chopra, Honorary Secretary, The Media Foundation
MEDIA RELEASE: IJU condemns arrest order of Veteran Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
New Delhi/ 20 January 2021
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) expresses its grave concern at reports that a Gujarat court has issued an arrest warrant against veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. The arrest has been ordered for alleged defamation of the Adani group by Thakurta in one of his articles published in 2017. The impugned article that was published by the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) alleged that the government of India had tweaked rules of the Special Economic Zone to enable Adani Power Limited to get duty drawback of Rs 500 crore from the government. The Adani group sent a notice to the publisher, threatening legal action. The Sameeksha Trust, the publisher of EPW pulled down the article and its editor Guha Thakurta resigned in protest. It is strange that the Adani group has withdrawn charges against the publishers of the article-Sameeksha Trust and the co-authors, however not against Guha Thakurta.
In June 2017 the Wire republished the article, with permission from EPW. The Adani group then filed a SLAPP suit on the Wire and the co-authors of the article Guha Thakurta, Abir Dasgupta, Advait Rao Palepu and Shinzani Jain. In May 2019 a Gujarat court ordered the publishers to remove one sentence and one word from the article. The Wire complied and the defamation suit was rejected by the court. Now it is strange that another court has ordered arrest of Guha Thakurta.
In a joint statement IJU President Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General Sabina Indeerjit condemned the arrest warrant of Takjurta. The IJU leaders said: ‘We condemn the arrest order against a renowned journalist. IJU has earlier demanded decriminalisation of the defamation law which is a serious threat to freedom of press and media rights.’
Geetartha Pathak, President, IJU
This is the story that led to the defamation action. It describes a decision by the Modi government that led to a $100-million 'bonanza' for the Adani Group.
(Story continues below)
MEDIA RELEASE BY DELHI UNION OF JOURNALISTS: DUJ Condemns Arrest Warrant for Journalist Paranjoy
20 January 2021
Flat no.29, New Central Market, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110 001, Phone: 23413459, E-mail: [email protected] The Delhi Union of Journalists expresses its shock at reports that a Kutch (in the Indian state of Gujarat) court has issued an arrest warrant for veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. The arrest has been ordered for alleged defamation of the Adani group in an article published in 2017.
In a joint statement President Mr.S.K.Pande and General Secretary Sujata Madhok have condemned the arrest warrant. The statement said: “Ironically, the Adani group has withdrawn its charges against the publishers of the article and the co-authors but not Guha Thakurta. In 2017 the article that stirred controversy was published by the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW). It alleged that the government of India had tweaked rules of the Special Economic Zone to enable Adani Power Limited to get duty drawback of Rs 500 crore from the government. The Adani group sent a notice to the publisher, threatening legal action. The EPW’s publisher, the Sameeksha Trust, pulled down the article and its editor Guha Thakurta resigned in protest.
In June 2017 the Wire republished the article, with permission from EPW. The Adani group then filed a SLAPP suit on the Wire and the co-authors of the article Guha Thakurta, Abir Dasgupta, Advait Rao Palepu and Shinzani Jain. In May 2019 a Gujarat court ordered the publishers to remove one sentence and one word from the article. The Wire complied and the defamation suit was rejected by the court. Subsequently the Adani group withdrew the case against the Wire and the authors. In the circumstances it is strange that another court should have ordered the arrest of Guha Thakurta.
The Delhi Union of Journalists severely condemns the move to arrest a leading journalist. We have long demanded decriminalisation of the defamation law that is a serious threat to media freedoms. We urge the higher judiciary to strike down the criminal defamation law at the earliest.”
S.K.Pande Sujata Madhok
President General Secretary