A Meerut based journalist, Afgan Soni (28), was arrested on Thursday after he was accused of allegedly sharing a “defaming” WhatsApp video clip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 15-second video was posted on a group created by the Meerut SSP office to share police-related information, had district police officers and journalists as members. The video showed PM Modi raising a question about “acche din” and receiving responses from a herd of sheep. As soon as the video was posted on the group, other members disapproved of it and demanded that the SSP must take immediate against the journalist. Although the journalist Afgan Soni declared that it was only a joke and apologised to those who have been hurt, he couldn’t convince the group members who felt that the video was made to insult the PM.
Soni, who works with a Hindi Daily, told The Indian Express, “I had received the video from someone three days ago and forwarded it to the group by mistake on Wednesday. I suspect someone may have deliberately made it an issue and got the FIR lodged against me.”
A case was registered against him based on Saini’s instruction and further proceedings were communicated to the group.
Talking to the media, Civil Lines Police Station House Officer Ambresh Kumbar Baghel said that Afgan Soni has been booked under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC and Section 66 (computer related offences) of IT Act.
The officer also added that they are yet to record Soni’s statement. When Soni was contacted, he was visibly surprised by the sudden turn of events. He said, “In the past, several people have posted derogatory pictures and videos on the SSP’s WhatsApp group, but no action was taken against them. I am being targeted because of my faith. I did not make the video, I just mistakenly shared it.” He further added that this particular video clip is already viral on the social media and people are sharing them widely. If he is to be framed, every single person sharing the video clip should be booked under law.
The Logical Indian take
The video posted by Soni on the Whatsapp group was created last year and is nothing but a mere parody clip.
An FIR lodged against him under Section 500 (defamation) and Section 66 (computer-related offences of dishonesty or fraud) – laws that have been used too many times by those in power to keep criticism, even in the form of humour, at bay.
The journalist’s arrest should alarm each of us and if its doesn’t, we lack the necessary regard for personal liberty and its importance in the free world.
Our freedom of expression comes with the license to offend. This is the sole way a democracy can function – when all opinions, even if distasteful for some, are given a platform to be expressed. There will always be an urge to shut out opinions that are against those in power, for them to stay in power.
Any law is meant to safeguard citizens and the country, not the government. It is when we understand this, the debate on free speech will be in our favour.