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Indian editor arrested for republishing "Charlie Hebdo" cartoon

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 6 February 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) in condemning the arrest of Shirin Dalvi, the editor of an Urdu newspaper in Mumbai, India on January 29, 2015 for reprinting a cartoon originally published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The IFJ has described this as a violation of freedom of expression and called for established procedure to deal with violations of journalistic ethics through the Press Council.

Dalvi, the Mumbai-based 46-year-old editor of the Awadhnama daily, was arrested in Mumbra, in Mumbai's financial district and later released on anticipatory bail by a court for reprinting the Charlie Hebdo's 'anti-Islam' cartoon on the front page of the January 17 issue.

The editor was arrested under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which bans malicious and deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings. According to reports, several complaints were lodged to police after the paper reprinted the cover image, which depicted Muhammad, which was published after gunmen stormed the magazine's offices in Paris on January 7, killing 12 people.

Dalvi apologized the day after the edition carrying the cartoon was published. However, she has been forced into hiding and started wearing a hijab due to threats. Publication of the newspaper has also been shut down following the incident.

The BUJ said in a statement: "There are self-regulatory mechanisms that citizens can avail of to deal with issues of journalistic ethics or responsibility. It is important to strengthen these self-regulatory mechanisms to address and resolve such issues."

The DUJ said: "This smacks of religious intolerance and is an attack on the freedom of the press. We believe that while religious sentiments and sensitivities need to be respected, these must be balanced against the secular rights and media freedoms that guard India's democracy."

Jane Worthington, the IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, said: "The arrest of the editor for republishing a cartoon is deeply worrying as it is an attack of freedom of expression. Such an arrest can have a chilling effect on journalists and media workers including self-censorship."

The IFJ urged the Indian authorities to respect the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and immediately withdraw the charges against Dalvi.

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