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16 Indian Journalists Have Been Charged Under UAPA, 7 Are Currently Behind Bars

Two journalists managed to secure freedom from UAPA, one with an acquittal and the other, a discharge.
Representative image. Credit: Ahdieh Ashrafi/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The number of journalists charged under draconian laws is an indication of the perilous state of free speech in India. From 2010 till date, we have 16 journalists charged under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 ( UAPA ) in the country (See below for full list).

When UAPA is used against journalists who seek to investigate and report on a range of issues, it seeks to criminalise their legitimate work and stigmatise them as “terrorists” as well as having a chilling effect on the professional at large.

UAPA was brought in to curb terror activities. Its punishing process is designed to make jail the rule and bail the exception. Cases continue literally for decades. Two managed to secure freedom from UAPA, one with an acquittal and the other, a discharge. Over the last decade, patriotism, national security and alleged anti-national activities have been included in the array of charges in the UAPA arsenal, as the latest instance of the arrest of the editor of news portal Newsclick Prabir Purkayastha shows.

The FIR against Purkayastha and the head of its human resources department, Amit Chakravarty, cites Sections 13 (unlawful activities), 16 (terrorist act), 17 (raising funds for terrorist acts), 18 (conspiracy) and 22 (C) (offences by companies, trusts) in the UAPA, along with IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different group) and 120B (criminal conspiracy). Sec 153 A against the media is another favourite of the law enforcing agencies and has been used against a number of journalists, including Neha Dixit and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

While UAPA has been indiscriminatingly used in the last few years to charge human rights activists, lawyers, students, workers and tribals, other draconian acts like The Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir and The Chhattisgarh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, The National Security Act and provisions like sedition in The Indian Penal Code, have also been deployed and journalists have been charged under these acts too.

In “Behind Bars”, Free Speech Collective’s study of a decade of journalists arrested in India (2010-20), 154 journalists in India were arrested, detained, interrogated or served show cause notices for their professional work and a little over 40 per cent of these instances were in 2020. Nine foreign journalists faced deportation, arrest, interrogations or were denied entry into India.

In a democracy, journalists are messengers of news and information. Silencing them will silence their reportage and commentary of important issues and the democratic right of citizens to access information without fear is compromised.

Journalists under UAPA in India – A Free Speech Collective Tracker (2010 till date)*

Journalists currently charged under UAPA : 16
Journalists behind bars for UAPA : 07
Journalists on bail on UAPA charges : 08
Journalists charged but not arrested : 01
Journalists acquitted : 01
Journalists discharged : 01

Arrested, in police custody
1. Prabir Purkayastha, Editor, Newsclick – 03.10.2023, New Delhi

In Prison
1. Aasif Sultan, Reporter, Kashmir Narrator – 27.08.2018; Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
2. Fahad Shah, Editor , The Kashmirwalla – 04.02.2022, Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir
3. Sajjad Gul, trainee reporter, The Kashmir Walla, 05.01.2022, Bandipora district, Jammu and Kashmir
4. Rupesh Kumar, Independent journalist – 17.07.2022, Ramgarh district, Jharkhand
5. Irfan Mehraj, Editor, Wande Magazine – 21.03.2023, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Under House Arrest

1. Gautam Navlakha, writer and consulting editor, Newsclick, 30.08.2018 (house arrest), 20.04.2020 (surrendered and jailed), 19.11.2022 (house arrest)

On bail (by order of arrest date)

1. Seema Azad, editor Dastak, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh – arrested February 2010, granted bail in August 2012; raided on 06.09.2023
2. Vishwa Vijay, editor Dastak, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh – arrested February 2010, granted bail in August 2012; raided on 06.09.2023
3. K K Shahina, journalist Outlook, case lodged in December 2010; granted anticipatory bail in July 2011
4. Siddique Kappan, journalist, Azhimukham, Delhi; arrested on 05.10.2020, granted bail in UAPA case on 09.09.2023 and PMLA case on 23.12.2022
5. Paojel Chaoba, executive editor, The Frontier Manipur, Imphal – arrested 17.01.2021, granted bail 18.01.2021
6. Dhiren Sadokpam, editor, The Frontier Manipur Imphal – arrested 17.01.2021, granted bail 18.01.2021-
7. Shyam Meera Singh, independent journalist, New Delhi, charged on 10.11. 2021; got anticipatory bail on 18.11.2021
8. Manan Dar, photojournalist, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir; arrested on 22.10.2021; secured bail on 04.01.2023

Charged but not arrested

1. Masrat Zahra, photojournalist, Srinagar, case registered on 18.04.2020;


1. Santosh Yadav, Bastar, Chhattisgarh, Sept 2015 ;acquitted 02.01.2020


1. Kamran Yousuf, Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir – arrested in Sept 2017; secured a discharge on 16.03.2022

This article was originally published by the Free Speech Collective.

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