Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it strongly deplores the arrest of the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi by police in Uttar Pradesh state on August 8. He has been charged with sedition for publishing cartoons on his website criticizing government corruption. The organization also calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
“The prosecution and detention of the cartoonist are a gross violation of freedom of expression and information by the Indian authorities,” the organization said.
The arrest followed a complaint lodged against Trivedi on January 30 this year under the Indian Penal Code, the National emblem Act and the Information Technology Act, after demonstrators waved his cartoons during an anti-corruption protest in Mumbai last year.
The artist went underground after learning that a warrant for his arrest had been issued. However, the security forces discovered approximately two weeks ago that he was in hiding in Unnao district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
A Mumbai court ruled yesterday that he should be remanded without bail until September 16 for offences under sedition and information technology laws.
His lawyer, Mahesh Jethmalani, said: “His arrest is absurd and a curb on freedom of expression.”
Trivedi himself was unrepentant. “If telling the truth makes me a traitor, then I am one,” he said outside the court, adding : “If I am booked under sedition for doing service to the nation then I will continue to do so.”
Reporters Without Borders notes that last month the Indian authorities stepped up Internet censorship in response to inter-ethnic violence, ordering Internet Service Providers to block access to more 300 online locations.
India is listed among countries “under surveillance” in the latest Reporters Without Borders report on Internet Enemies, published in March this year.