“As journalists we are supposed to bring forward the story of those who are oppressed.”
These are the words of Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist who was arrested by the Delhi Police on 30th January, 2021 while covering the farmer protests at Singhu border. While in custody Punia said he met farmers and felt their stories needed to be out in the open, and the lack of paper did not stop him. He took notes on his hands and legs.
Following protests by Mandeep’s colleagues against his arrest and a larger clampdown on the press, he was granted bail by a Delhi Court on 2nd February, 2021. The bail order said, “It is a well settled legal principle of law that bail is a rule and jail is an exception.”
Cases of ‘obstructing public servants in discharge of public functions’, ‘assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty’, and ‘voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty’, have been filed against Mandeep.
Mandeep Punia is not the only one facing charges being pressed against him. Indian authorities filed sedition and other charges against at least nine journalists who reported on, or merely tweeted about the protests. Under Indian law, sedition carries a possible penalty of life imprisonment. The editors of two prominent independent news outlets—Vinod K. Jose, of the magazine The Caravan, and Siddharth Varadarajan, of the news website The Wire—were among those charged.
These charges against Indian journalists comes on the back of social media platform Twitter, temporarily blocking accounts that have been tweeting in support of farmers on government directives.
Hear the story of courage and an unwavering spirit towards his duty, in Mandeep Punia’s own words!
Also watch: Video: Death Of A Democracy – Press Freedom In India