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Journalist Siddique Kappan leaves prison after two years

For reporting on a case of gang rape, Siddique Kappan was charged with terrorism and sentenced to 28 months in prison without a trial.

More than a month after being granted bail by a court in the northern Indian city of Prayagraj in a case involving money laundering, Indian journalist Siddique Kappan, who was imprisoned for two and a half years without being tried, has left prison.

He was initially charged with violating several Indian penal code articles. Later, accusations of fighting terrorism and money laundering were made. The Supreme Court granted him bail in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case in September.

After nearly 2.5 years in prison, Kappan, 43, told Al Jazeera that he was “glad to walk out.” “I intend to defend my actions and establish my innocence.”

The organization that guards journalists’ rights, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), applauded Kappan’s release and urged the dismissal of all charges.

Only to report, I had only gone. Why is that problematic? I simply had a notepad and two pens with me. In the month of October 2020, Kappan was detained in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where he had went to cover a high-profile gang-rape case.

He was charged with conspiring to instigate violence together with three other people, including his driver, after being falsely implicated in a Muslim group.

While two others are still in jail, his driver Mohammad Alam received bail last month. Kappan has defended his innocence and claims that he simply left Kerala, his home state, to fulfill his obligations as a journalist.

“I only intended to report. Why is that problematic? I was simply holding two pens and a notepad,” he claimed in reference to the instance of a young Dalit woman who was gang-raped by upper-caste Hindu men in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. The 43-year-old admitted that the previous two years had been difficult for him and his family.

My wife and our three kids had many difficulties. However, I must express my gratitude to all who helped my family and I.

According to Geeta Seshu, a supporter of press freedom in India, Kappan’s detention under strict “anti-terror” laws “is an extreme demonstration of the fragility of the ability of journalists to work in India.”

The founder of the Mumbai-based Free Speech Collective, Seshu, claimed that while Kappan was hired even before he could publish his tale, other journalists were regularly targeted for their writing.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist administration entered power in 2014, media liberties in India have dramatically decreased. Bharat Janata Party (BJP) members frequently put critical journalists in jail and harass them on social media (BJP).

India’s position slipped from 142 to 150 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders in May of last year.

Seshu continued, “The overall effect of this intimidation and persecution, both apparent and unseen, is the degradation of journalists’ freedom to research and report on significant problems, to comment and inform public opinion, and to challenge those in authority.

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