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Statement from the Foundation for Media Professionals on the arrest of a cartoonist in Tamil Nadu
November 06, 2017

The Foundation for Media Professionals condemns the arrest in Chennai of cartoonist G Bala on November 5, 2017 for his allegedly "demeaning caricature" of, among others, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. The cartoon, which also portrayed Tirunelveli district collector and police commissioner of Tirunelveli city, is a valid journalistic critique of their failure to prevent a family's suicide by self-immolation in the district.
 
As a usury victim was driven to kill himself, his wife and his two young children after the collector had allegedly failed to act on his repeated pleas for intervention, Bala's cartoon sought to highlight administrative insensitivity by showing the three authorities covering themselves with the fig leaf of currency notes in the presence of a charred body.
 
Though he has been released after being detained for a day, Bala's arrest on the basis of the cartoon is the latest in a long list of attacks on free speech in the country.
 
This is evident from the nature of the offences invoked in the context of the cartoon on a distress-related tragedy. Bala has been accused of not only printing "matter known to be defamatory" (Section 501 IPC) but also transmitting "obscene material in electronic form" (Section 67 of the Information Technology Act).
 
It's a telling irony that the arrest of the Tamil cartoonist took place on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Chennai, to participate in the function of a Tamil newspaper.
 
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, President
Manoj Mitta, Director
Sandhya Ravishankar, Tamil Nadu Convenor

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