NEW DELHI (AFP): India’s top court on Friday bailed a journalist held in custody for nearly two years without trial on accusations he had raised funds for terrorism and conspired to sow religious hatred.
Siddique Kappan was arrested in October 2020 in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where he had travelled to report on a high-profile gang-rape case.
He and three others were accused of belonging to a militant group and eventually charged with conspiracy to incite violence.
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Kappan has maintained his innocence and says that he had only travelled from his home state of Kerala to do his duties as a journalist.
The Supreme Court agreed to bail the reporter after noting the case had yet to progress from the police investigation filed in April last year.
“Every person has a right to free expression. He is trying to show that victims need justice and raise a common voice,” the court said.
Earlier attempts to seek bail were rejected by lower courts.
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India has slipped 10 places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking to 150 out of 180 since the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.
Critical reporters often find themselves behind bars and hounded on social media by supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Nine other journalists are currently in Indian prisons, according to Reporters Without Borders.