Journalist Bodies Condemn Arrest Warrant Against Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

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Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

Warrant was issued by Gujarat court in connection with a defamation case filed by Adani group over an article published in 2017.

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — Journalist bodies have denounced the arrest warrant issued against Paranjoy Guha Thakurta by a Gujarat court in connection with a defamation case filed by Adani group over an article published in 2017.

While condemning the warrant, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) termed it as  “intimidatory tactics” by a power business house against journalists to prevent scrutiny. In a public statement issued on Thursday EGI said, the warrant is an example of how intolerant the business houses have become to any criticism. “They are using the very instruments that provide media the necessary protection,” the statement said.

The warrant against Thakurta was issued on Tuesday by Judicial magistrate Pradeep Soni directing the Nizamuddin police station in New Delhi to arrest Thakurta, who “stands charged with complaint under section 500 of IPC [defamation]”.

In 2017 Thakurta had said in an article in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) that the Modi government had bent rules on special economic zones which gave the Adani group a “Rs 500 crore bonanza”. The article was reproduced by news website The Wire.

After the complaint by the group EPW removed the article and Thakurta resigned.  The wire, however, contested and eventually the group unconditionally withdrew all cases except against Thakurta.

On Wednesday the wire issued a statement saying,  “we are dismayed to see that the case of civil and criminal defamation against Paranjoy Guha Thakurta has not been withdrawn.

The Delhi Union of Journalists also expressed shock over the reports of arrest warrant against 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,” it added.

According to Scroll, Thakurta’s lawyer Yagnik said, issuing a non-bailable warrant directly is an abject violation of the law laid down by the Supreme Court.

Thakurta is also facing another similar complaint by Adani group over a series of articles written by him on Newsclick. Last year the group moved a court in Ahmedabad seeking gag order against the website and the court granted the same. The order is being challenged by News click.

The EGI, in its Thursday statement, urged the higher judiciary to take cognizance of the fact how defamation laws are used to impede freedom of speech and “issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to the free press.”

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