New Delhi, feb 2 (EFE).- Indian journalist Siddique Kappan was on Thursday released on bail after spending more than two years in prison, following his arrest on conspiracy charges under a controversial anti-terror law while he was covering a rape case.
Kappan, who has always maintained that he had traveled to the northern city of Hathras in 2020 for journalistic purposes – after a woman from the oppressed Dalit community was gang-raped there – talked to reporters on Thursday after his release.
He stressed that “journalism is not a crime,” and vowed to continue his fight against the “draconian laws” that led to his arrest.
“I was there to do my job, that’s it. (…) They found nothing, only a laptop and a mobile phone were recovered from me,” the journalist said, referring to the investigative agencies.
Authorities had arrested Kappan in October 2020 and charged him with attempt to disturb peace in Hathras even as the city was embroiled in protests against the rape, along with accusing him of receiving funds from the Popular Front of India, a controversial Muslim organizations since accused of having terror links and backing extremism.
The PFI was subsequently banned in September 2022.
Although Kappan had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in September, his release remained suspended until the resolution of another case related to money laundering, specialized media outlet LiveLaw reported.
The journalist finally managed to secure bail on Wednesday when a court approved his release.
Kappan had been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, an anti-terror law widely criticized as draconian.
The UAPA and other similar laws have been criticized as they make it very hard to secure bail.
It has become common in India for activists and journalists to be arrested under such laws, and civil rights groups and the opposition have termed them an attack on dissent.
India was ranked 150th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a fall of eight places compared to the previous year.
Another report released by the nonprofit Rights & Risks Analysis Group in February 2022 flagged the sustained deterioration of freedom of expression in India, where at least six journalists were killed and 17 arrested during 2021. EFE