Court frees journalist held for defamatory tweet

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India’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of a journalist who was arrested and jailed for tweeting about Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday.

Prashant Kanojia had shared a video of a woman who alleged that she had a relationship with Mr Adityanath.

In the clip, she asks whether he would like to “spend the rest of his life with her”.

Police picked him up from his house for “defaming” the chief minister.

Mr Kanojia’s arrest had caused concern because it was among a spate of arrests for similar charges – six people have been arrested over social media posts about Mr Adityanath in the last three days alone.

The court was scathing in its order to the Uttar Pradesh government.

“A citizen’s right to liberty has been infringed. We have gone through the records. Opinions may vary, maybe this sort of thing should not have been published,” the Supreme Court said on Tuesday while hearing a petition filed by Mr Kanojia’s wife. “But why arrest? Under what provision has he been arrested for this?”

The court added the journalist had not committed “murder”.

“I am very happy now. I have faith in the Indian Constitution. My husband has not committed any offence,” his wife Jigisha Arora told reporters shortly after the ruling.

The lawyer for the state had argued that the tweet was “very inflammatory” given that Mr Kanojia posted the video on Twitter with a quote from a Hindi film song which says “love will not be hidden even if you attempt to hide it”.

He refused to comment on the order, saying the matter was still to be fully resolved.

Two other journalists who work for an Indian television channel, Anuj Shukla and Ishika Singh, were also arrested on the same day for hosting a discussion that allegedly “maligned” Mr Adityanath. It is not clear if it’s over the same video.

However, correspondents say that the court order should pave the way for their release as well.

Three other people who are not journalists have also been arrested for sharing or posting negative content against Mr Adityanath in the last three days.

The spate of arrests have caused furore over the state of free speech in India. The Editorial Guild of India criticised the move, and main opposition Congress party’s president Rahul Gandhi said Mr Adityanath was “behaving foolishly”

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