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What Rights Do Journalists Have in India? CPJ Report Answers Key Questions

While the CJP report is no substitute for proper legal advice, its purpose is for information.

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(This article has been reposted from The Quint's archives to mark World Press Freedom Day. It was originally published in February 2023.)

What are your rights as a journalist in India? How to deal with online abuse? What to do if you are detained? How to respond to an FIR? Can you seek bail in anticipation of your arrest, even before a complaint has been filed against you?

These are just some of the concerns that Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in collaboration with TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation's global pro bono service, aims to answer through its new report: Know Your Rights Guide for Journalists in India.

While the report launched on Saturday, 25 February, is no substitute for proper legal advice, its purpose is for information.

As stated on the CPJ website, it “provides guidance to equip journalists with a working understanding of the remedies and protection measures that are available under Indian law.”

What Rights Do Journalists Have in India? CPJ Report Answers Key Questions

  1. 1. SO, WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS AS A JOURNALIST IN INDIA?

    (Did you know that you have a fundamental right to free speech?)

    As pointed out in the CPJ report, your rights as a journalist in India include:

    • The right to free speech is a fundamental right available to all citizens of India. This includes the freedom of press, freedom of publication, circulation, and rights against pre-censorship.
     • This means that you can voice criticism of the government or the country.
    • However, this freedom is not unlimited, and your speech may be restricted if it disrupts public order, incites the commission of an offence, or threatens national security.

    Expand
  2. 2. OK, BUT WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IN CASE I AM BEING ARRESTED?

    (Did you know it is your fundamental right to appoint a lawyer of your choice and have him/her present during your interrogation?)

    In case you’re being arrested — 

    • Check if there is a warrant to arrest you and search or seizure of any belongings or articles through a raid- this includes access to electronic devices. Consult your lawyer if you are being compelled to disclose any such evidence.

    • At the time of arrest, the police must inform you of the legal provisions of the arrest and your right to bail. A warrant is required for non-cognizable offences which are usually bailable, while it is not required for cognizable offences which are non-bailable (refer to Schedule I of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

    • If arrested, you can seek bail and inform your friends and family.

    • It is your fundamental right to appoint a lawyer of your choice and have him/her present during your interrogation.

    • In case you do not have access to a lawyer, you may avail the free legal aid provided by respective Legal Services Authorities at the national, state or district level.

    • You have the right to remain silent during an interrogation if you believe that answering a question may incriminate you.

    • While making an arrest, the police officer must prepare a “memorandum of arrest” that is countersigned by you and a relative/neighbour of yours.

    • Further, the police officer must provide details of your whereabouts to a person nominated by you and record the same.

    • Women can only be arrested by male officers during the day; a woman police officer must be present if you are being arrested before sunrise or after sunset.

    • You can seek bail in anticipation of your arrest, even if a complaint has not been filed against you.

    But criminal proceedings don't really begin or end with arrest. Refer to the full report for more details on where to start if you are facing criminal action, how to get an FIR quashed, what to do if you are detained etc.
    Expand
  3. 3. BUT WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

    This is important because journalists have often found themselves inundated with FIRs, defamation suits and other legal proceedings, several even incarcerated under stringent legislations including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act) and J&K Public Safety Act.

    Journalist Neha Dixit spoke at the launch event about how the struggle is not limited to the journalists alone, but how their families also suffer in the aftermath of attacks on press freedom.

    This she illustrated by talking about how since the arrest of independent journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh, his wife too has lost her job and their 7-year-old son has been subjected to a lot of stigma and has had to change schools.

    She also talked about how journalist Sajad Gul’s family has been impacted since his arrest in January last year. Gul, 23, was booked under the PSA, only a day after he was granted bail in a different case. He hasn’t stepped out of jail since.

    Dixit mentioned that: "We need a good network of lawyers also in two tier cities" and it is very important for journalist bodies to issue statements in support of fellow journalists because "it gives some sort of moral support" and reaches far and wide.

    Find access to the full guide (both in English and Hindi) here.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

SO, WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS AS A JOURNALIST IN INDIA?

(Did you know that you have a fundamental right to free speech?)

As pointed out in the CPJ report, your rights as a journalist in India include:

• The right to free speech is a fundamental right available to all citizens of India. This includes the freedom of press, freedom of publication, circulation, and rights against pre-censorship.
 • This means that you can voice criticism of the government or the country.
• However, this freedom is not unlimited, and your speech may be restricted if it disrupts public order, incites the commission of an offence, or threatens national security.

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OK, BUT WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IN CASE I AM BEING ARRESTED?

(Did you know it is your fundamental right to appoint a lawyer of your choice and have him/her present during your interrogation?)

In case you’re being arrested — 

• Check if there is a warrant to arrest you and search or seizure of any belongings or articles through a raid- this includes access to electronic devices. Consult your lawyer if you are being compelled to disclose any such evidence.

• At the time of arrest, the police must inform you of the legal provisions of the arrest and your right to bail. A warrant is required for non-cognizable offences which are usually bailable, while it is not required for cognizable offences which are non-bailable (refer to Schedule I of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

• If arrested, you can seek bail and inform your friends and family.

• It is your fundamental right to appoint a lawyer of your choice and have him/her present during your interrogation.

• In case you do not have access to a lawyer, you may avail the free legal aid provided by respective Legal Services Authorities at the national, state or district level.

• You have the right to remain silent during an interrogation if you believe that answering a question may incriminate you.

• While making an arrest, the police officer must prepare a “memorandum of arrest” that is countersigned by you and a relative/neighbour of yours.

• Further, the police officer must provide details of your whereabouts to a person nominated by you and record the same.

• Women can only be arrested by male officers during the day; a woman police officer must be present if you are being arrested before sunrise or after sunset.

• You can seek bail in anticipation of your arrest, even if a complaint has not been filed against you.

But criminal proceedings don't really begin or end with arrest. Refer to the full report for more details on where to start if you are facing criminal action, how to get an FIR quashed, what to do if you are detained etc.
0

BUT WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

This is important because journalists have often found themselves inundated with FIRs, defamation suits and other legal proceedings, several even incarcerated under stringent legislations including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act) and J&K Public Safety Act.

Journalist Neha Dixit spoke at the launch event about how the struggle is not limited to the journalists alone, but how their families also suffer in the aftermath of attacks on press freedom.

This she illustrated by talking about how since the arrest of independent journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh, his wife too has lost her job and their 7-year-old son has been subjected to a lot of stigma and has had to change schools.

She also talked about how journalist Sajad Gul’s family has been impacted since his arrest in January last year. Gul, 23, was booked under the PSA, only a day after he was granted bail in a different case. He hasn’t stepped out of jail since.

Dixit mentioned that: "We need a good network of lawyers also in two tier cities" and it is very important for journalist bodies to issue statements in support of fellow journalists because "it gives some sort of moral support" and reaches far and wide.

Find access to the full guide (both in English and Hindi) here.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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