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Full Statement: Republic Team Jailed By Maharashtra Govt; Network Will Fight For Justice

Republic Media Network's reporting team has been jailed by the Maharashtra government. The Network will fight for justice and not reveal the source or story.

Anuj Kumar

MASSIVE CLAMPDOWN ON RIGHT TO REPORT: REPUBLIC REPORTING TEAM JAILED BY MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT, NETWORK WILL FIGHT FOR JUSTICE & NOT REVEAL SOURCE OR STORY

Republic Media Network’s reporter Anuj Kumar, video journalist Yashpaljit Singh and Ola cab driver Pradeep Dilip Dhanavade have been taken into illegal police custody by the Maharashtra Police. The reporting team was following a journalistic lead in an investigative assignment in Karjat in Raigad. In what is the biggest clampdown on the right to report, the Republic team was apprehended and thrown into jail for 4 days after making an enquiry with a security guard of a certain residence. We are shocked that the Republic team was denied any legal representation before being sent to 4 days of custody.

Our team, which is in jail at present, has been charged under sections of trespassing. This is in blatant contradiction to the facts recorded in the press statement by the Police given that it is on-record that the Republic team was apprehended on approaching a security guard. Should the intent have been to ‘trespass’ as is being alleged, an official enquiry to a security guard at a residential gate would not have been made.

We are being informed that our reporter is being pressured by the state machinery in Maharashtra to reveal his story, his leads and his sources. Our reporter will not reveal the source or story. This stands in complete violation of the right to report protected by the Constitution of India. If the idea is to intimidate our journalistic teams, Republic Media Network reiterates that we will not reveal our sources or stories, despite the threat of an excessive use of police force by the state government in Maharashtra.

In the democratic Republic of India, every citizen has the right to move freely as part of their fundamental rights under Article 19(d), and no citizen can be illegitimately deprived of his life or personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. These rights do not extinguish in the radius around any Chief Minister’s residence. The illegal detention of our reporter and video journalist is an attack on constitutionally guaranteed rights with a motivation to muzzle a free press, deny the right to report, and to deter any journalist from speaking truth to power and pursuing stories of public interest as the fourth pillar of our democracy.

This incident reveals a horrendous overreach by the Maharashtra government. The message being sent by the Maharashtra government and its machinery is that no journalist pursuing a story can report in Karjat, or near the Chief Minister’s home. In a free democratic country, if a reporter near the Chief Minister’s house to pursue a story is put in jail for 4 days without legal representation, it is not only an obvious and blatant attack on the right to report, but also the most determined attack on media freedom in India.

Republic Media Network strongly states that this excessive use of police force on our team is against the very tenets of Indian democracy which guarantees the right to report as a fundamental right. The Maharashtra Government’s dictatorial approach in using its state machinery to hunt down our reporter on an investigative assignment will be fought by Republic Media Network at every forum and stage by all means permitted under the law.

This incident seems part of a larger pattern by the Maharashtra government to try and block the Republic Media Network. We believe that this is undoubtedly malicious action against our team which has been proven by the concerted nature of the action. Consider the following:

1. Legitimate legal representation has been denied to our reporter and video journalist. Our lawyer was not allowed to be present even via a video link.

2. Our journalist was present with the intent to make official enquiries with the guard when he was arrested for trespass.

3. A remand copy was not given to further block any possible legal recourse to ensure our reporting team can exercise their rights under the law.

4. Given the freedom of movement and right to report in this country, is Karjat a forbidden zone for journalists who seek to report and put out information in the public domain?

The sequence of events, the nature of action and the motivated attempt to silence our reporters who pursue investigative stories reeks of vindictive, malicious and vengeful action by the Maharashtra government against Republic Media Network, and its reporters.

Republic Media Network firmly stands by its team and will take every legal recourse available to fight for justice. We will raise this at every forum and campaign till justice is done.

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