Indian Journalist Freed on Bail After Being Jailed for Two Years Without Trial – Journalist Siddique Kappan from India, who spent two years in jail without a trial, has been released on bail following allegations of political motivation by human rights groups. Kappan, a Muslim journalist from Kerala, was taken into custody in October 2020 while traveling to Uttar Pradesh to cover the case of a gang-raped Dalit girl who eventually passed away.
Kappan, along with three others, was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police and accused of being associated with an Islamist extremist group and being involved in a plot to stir up violence among Muslims. He was charged under harsh anti-terror laws and the police claimed that he had close ties to the Popular Front of India, a Muslim organization that was not banned at the time of his arrest but has since been banned.
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In December 2020, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists alleged that Kappan had been “beaten thrice and subjected to mental torture during custody.” Kappan denied all charges and was eventually granted bail by the supreme court back in September, who said he had “the right to freedom of expression.” Nevertheless, he was kept in jail for another four months after money-laundering charges were levelled at him by a central government agency.
He was also granted bail in that case in December but the authorities dragged their feet in releasing him over technicalities. On Thursday morning, a visibly emotional Kappan walked free from Lucknow jail. “This is half-baked justice,” he told reporters outside the prison. “Journalism is not a crime. I will continue my fight against draconian laws. They kept me in jail even after I got bail 28 months after a long fight.”
“I don’t know who’s benefiting from my being in jail. These two years were very tough, but I was never afraid.” Kappan’s wife, Raihanath Kappan, and their three children were waiting for him at the prison gates. “Two-and-a-half years is not a short time,” she said. “We have experienced a lot of pain and suffering. But I am happy that justice, though belated, has been served.” Global outrage has increased over Kappan’s extended detention, with the Committee to Protect Journalists branding the charges as “bogus”.
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Kappan’s situation has been spotlighted by media freedom and human rights organizations as a representation of the growing restrictive atmosphere for journalists since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in 2014. India has fallen 10 spots to 150 out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, due to harassment of critical journalists and media organizations online and the use of criminal charges against them. Reporters Without Borders reports that there are still nine journalists in prison in India.