Press freedom under attack, says PCI president Lakhera

Lecture event on Baqar refers to recent attacks on press freedom

The arrests of journalists Mohammad Zubair and Siddique Kappan led to a nationwide outrage over the attack on the freedom of the press. Photo Credit: Karnika Kohli/The Wire
The arrests of journalists Mohammad Zubair and Siddique Kappan led to a nationwide outrage over the attack on the freedom of the press. Photo Credit: Karnika Kohli/The Wire

Efforts were being made under the present government to finish the Press Club of India, which has been working for the freedom of the fourth estate, the journalist’s association president, Umakant Lakhera, said at an event organized to recall the sacrifice of Maulvi Mohammad Baqar, a journalist martyred in 1847. 

Lakhera said that just as Maulvi Baqar was killed for using his power of the pen for the country’s freedom, the freedom of the press was currently under continuous attack in India. “We fought the cases of (journalists) Mohammad Zubair and Siddique Kappan,” a press club statement about the Baqar memorial meeting said, quoting Lahera. 

Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police on 6 October 2020, when he was on his way to Hathras to report on the alleged gang rape of a Dalit woman, who later died. Though the Supreme Court granted him bail, Kappan remains in jail as he has been booked in connection with a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case, a report in The Wire said.

Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News, an Indian non-profit fact-checking website, was arrested by Delhi Police on June 27, in connection with one of his old tweets, on charges of allegedly hurting religious sentiments. Zubair is out on interim bail as the Supreme Court ordered his release on 20 July 2022.

“What was the crime of Kappan for which he has been in jail for the last two years? He was on his way to Hathras to cover a story of a young Dalit girl who died after a gang rape. There was no terror literature recovered from him. Yet, he was booked under terror charges. More than ten days have passed since the Supreme Court granted him bail. But he has yet not been released,” he said.

“But we will have to fight it unitedly,” Lakhera said at the first Maulvi Mohammad Baqar Memorial Lecture, organized by the press club on 16 September, the 165th martyrdom day of Maulvi Baqar.

Maulvi Mohammad Baqar was the first journalist to have been martyred by the then British government for his role in the freedom movement in 1857 through his newspaper – Delhi Urdu Akhbar. Delivering the memorial lecture, professor Syed Asghar Wajahat, a retired professor of Hindi from Jamia Millia Islamia, said that Baqar’s contributions in the field of journalism must be propagated in various languages to make the nation aware of his works.

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