New Delhi, April 21, 2021 – Authorities in India’s Uttar Pradesh state should immediately release journalist Siddique Kappan from custody and allow him to freely seek medical treatment for COVID-19, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Kappan collapsed in the Mathura Jail yesterday, where he is held pending trial, and today he tested positive for COVID-19, according to news reports and Wills Matthew, Kappan’s lawyer, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. Kappan has a high fever and has been admitted to K.M. Medical College, a privately run hospital in the city of Mathura, where he remains in state custody, Mathews told CPJ.
“We are deeply concerned by the grave risk to jailed Indian journalist Siddique Kappan’s life as he battles COVID-19,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia research associate. “Kappan should never have been jailed in the first place, and Uttar Pradesh authorities must do the right thing and immediately release him and drop all the charges in his case.”
At least 50 other inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Mathura Jail, according to those news reports. Kappan, a regular contributor to Malayalam-language news website Azhimukham, was arrested in October 2020, according to CPJ research. Earlier this month, he was formally charged with violating the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Information Technology Act, according to news reports.
CPJ called the Uttar Pradesh prison headquarters in Lucknow at the phone number listed on its website, but no one answered. Navneet Sehgal, additional chief secretary for information with the Uttar Pradesh government, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.
COVID-19 cases are currently surging across India, according to news reports.