IPI, an international organisation of editors committed to the freedom of the press, today condemned the arrest of a political cartoonist in India on charges of sedition over his anti-corruption cartoons.
N Ravi, the chairperson of the International Press Institute’s Indian national committee, said the police action against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi based on a private complaint was “outrageous”. “It was ironic that when the cartoonist was seeking to depict how the criminal and the corrupt were desecrating the national symbols, he himself should be charged with desecrating them,” Ravi, also the member of the Executive Board of the Vienna-headquartered IPI, said. He said the basic thrust of the meeting cartoons was to mock at the “pretentions” of politicians and bureaucrats.
While one may disagree with the message or mode of depiction, he said, there is certainly no cause for regarding them as criminal acts. He quoted the Supreme Court which approved the position that such acts must be judged from the standpoint of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men, and not those of weak and vacillating minds nor, of those who scent danger in every hostile point of view. “It is shocking that in cases like this involving basic freedom, the police should act mechanically on a complaint and arrest the cartoonist, ignoring the law as laid down by the courts,” Ravi said.
IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said the organisation was “gravely” concerned that a cartoonist has been imprisoned on charges of sedition. “In any healthy democracy, all media must enjoy the right to criticise and lampoon public officials and corruption, and we consider the continued detention of Trivedi to be a breach of press freedom and a blow to Indian democratic principles,” Mills said.
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