India’s top journalists have accused a state parliament of “a gross misuse of powers and privilege” by ordering that two editors be arrested for allegedly defaming local lawmakers.
Police in India’s southern Karnataka state said the editors - both from tabloid newspapers in the capital Bangalore - had evaded authorities since the state assembly issued an order for their arrest last week.
The allegations were first levelled against the editors in 2014, but the assembly only voted last week to pursue the charges.
A warrant was issued for the two journalists last week for “breach of privilege and criticizing lawmakers”, S.D Sharanappa, deputy commissioner of police in Bangalore, told AFP.
The editors could face a year in prison and a 10,000 rupee ($155) fine.
The Editors Guild of India in a statement Sunday said the order violated the constitution and fundamental tenets of freedom of speech.
“It is also a gross misuse of powers and privileges of a state legislature. The guild urges the Karnataka assembly to withdraw its resolution without delay,” the statement added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a global press rights group, in August last year said that successive local and national governments had failed to promote freedom of press in the world’s biggest democracy.
“(Case studies) show how small-town journalists face greater risk in their reporting... and how India’s culture of impunity is leaving the country’s press vulnerable to threats and attacks,” the committee said in a report.
In 2015, India was rated as the deadliest country in Asia for journalists by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.