Indian Journalist Jailed for a Year for Facebook Posts

On November 27th, half a dozen cops showed up at the home of journalist, Kishore Chandra Wangkhem in the northern state Manipur, bordering Myanmar.

The cops told the 39-year-old journalist that the city’s police chief wanted to have a word with him. He asked whether he could call his lawyer. They denied his request and left with him in five minutes. Taken away to a high security prison on the outskirts of the state capital, Imphal.

His crime- he had posted four videos and comments on his Facebook page on 19 November, criticizing the local government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP. He described the Manipur chief minister as a “puppet” of Prime Minister Modi.

The police inspector wrote that while surfing Facebook, he found that the videos “bring or attempt to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government.” He also said that Mr Wangkhem used “unconstitutional and invective words and with middle finger gesture…”

Mr Wangkhem has been picked up for facebook posts multiple times. He was arrested and locked up for four days in August when he called the BJP, the ‘Budhu Joker Party’ or “a party of fools.”

He was again picked up November 20th, for posting offensive videos and some comments criticizing the government. He was held for six days in police custody. A judge set Mr Wangkhem free, declaring the posts police claimed were “seditious” were in fact “mere expression of opinion against the public conduct of a public figure in a street language.”

The police, frustrated by the courts issued a fresh detention order the next day, and arrested Mr Wangkhem. This time using a decades old draconian national security law, which has been frequently used by the government to stifle free speech and dissent, and to target civil rights activists.

The National Security Act allows a person to be detained if they are considered to be a threat to public order or the security of the state for up to one year without formal charges or a trial. It is unclear how Mr Wangkhem’s posts violated public order and state security.



Photo of Kishore Chandra Wangkhem” from Wangkhemcha Wangthoi via Facebook