Manipur journalist jailed under NSA for criticizing BJP on social media

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: December 19, 2018

Kishorechandra Wangkhem, an Imphal based journalist, was arrested by state police under the National Security Act (NSA) on November 26. He was given a 12-month jail term and sacked from his job.


Kishorechandra Wangkhem, an Imphal based journalist,

Imphal: A Manipur based journalist has been sentenced to a year in jail for criticizing the BJP led state government on social media. Kishorechandra Wangkhem, an Imphal based journalist, was arrested by state police under the National Security Act (NSA) on November 26. He was given a 12-month jail term – the maximum period of detention allowed under the Act. He was also sacked from his job for his views.
 
“The advisory board of NSA, set up under Section 9 of the Act to look into the allegations brought by the state government against the journalist, met on December 11 and conducted hearings on the matter. On December 13, the board submitted its report to the authorities approving his detention under the NSA,” The Wire reported.
 
The former anchor-reporter with ISTV, a local news channel, had criticized the ruling party over an event in November. He condemned the state chief minister N. Biren Singh in his Facebook video. He lashed out at Singh, calling him a “puppet of Modi and Hindutva” for organising a function in Manipur on November 19 to mark the birth anniversary of Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, who he claimed had “nothing to do with Manipur”. “Do you have any sense of Manipuri nationalism?” he asked in the video. “If you don’t, don’t talk rubbish.” On several occasions during the video, Wangkhem used expletives for Modi and Singh. “Come and arrest me,” he said.
 
He was critical of the BJP-led state government and spoke in the regional Meitei language.
 
He was arrested under sections 294 and 500 of the IPC in addition to section 124 A, which deals with sedition. However, on being produced before a local court on November 25, it released him on bail on the ground that his words were “mere expression of opinion against the public conduct of a public figure in a street language.”
 
“Meanwhile, Kishorechandra was sacked by ISTV for uploading the video. This August, the editor of the channel, Brojendro Ningombam, who is also the president of the Manipur Working Journalists Union, apologized to the chief minister for another social media post of Kishorechandra which spoke against his government. He was thereafter released from custody,” the report added. But why was local media crawling when asked to walk?
 
Speaking to The Wire from Imphal, Kishorechandra’s wife Ranjita Elangbam said, “We have appealed to the Union Home Ministry to reconsider the order two days ago and are awaiting a response. Hopefully, it should come in a day or two.” She said she hasn’t met her husband since his sentencing. “I have put in a request. As per the rules, he would be allowed to meet his family only after 15 days,” she said.
 
In a press statement issued by the secretary of Indian Journalist's Union (IJU), N Narender Reddy, it was stated that the union strongly condemned the State Government for grossly misusing the ‘draconian National Security Act to silence criticism’.
 
‘IJU will not tolerate the act of state authorities of setting a wrong precedent and sending a terse message across all that dissent,’ it added. In another statement, IJU president, Amar Devulapalli and Press Council of India (PCI) member, Amar Devulapalli and its secretary general, Sabina Inderjit had asserted that the detention of Kishorchandra must be ‘seen as an attack on the freedom of expression and most undemocratic’.

“The detention is more objectionable as he was set free by the chief judicial magistrate a few days earlier quashing charges of sedition slapped on him by stating that the accused person transgressed beyond decent human conduct but it cannot be termed seditious,” the statement added.