IJU condemns arrest order against veteran journalist

NEW DELHI, 20 Jan: The Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has expressed grave concern at reports that a Gujarat court has issued an arrest warrant against veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

The arrest has been ordered for alleged defamation of the Adani Group by Thakurta in one of his articles published in 2017. The impugned article, which was published by the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), alleged that the government of India had tweaked rules of the special economic zone to enable Adani Power Limited to get duty drawback of Rs 500 crore from the government.

The Adani Group sent a notice to the publisher, threatening legal action.

The Sameeksha Trust, the publisher of the EPW, pulled down the article, and its editor Guha Thakurta resigned in protest.

“It is strange that the Adani Group has withdrawn charges against the publishers of the article, Sameeksha Trust and the co-authors; however not against Guha Thakurta,” the IJU said.

In June 2017, The Wire republished the article, with permission from the EPW. The Adani Group then filed a SLAPP suit against The Wire and the co-authors of the article, Guha Thakurta, Abir Dasgupta, Advait Rao Palepu and Shinzani Jain.

In May 2019, a Gujarat court ordered the publishers to remove one sentence and one word from the article. The Wire complied and the defamation suit was rejected by the court.

“Now it is strange that another court has ordered arrest of Guha Thakurta,” the IJU said.

In a joint statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general Sabina Indeerjit condemned the arrest warrant against Thakurta. The IJU leaders said: “We condemn the arrest order against a renowned journalist. The IJU has earlier demanded decriminalization of the defamation law which is a serious threat to freedom of press and media rights.”