Police in the India state of Uttar Pradesh arrested journalist Siddique Kappan on October 5, 2020, and are investigating him under various laws, including the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He remained in pretrial detention as of late 2022.
Kappan is a freelance reporter who has covered politics, crime, and current affairs for Malayalam-language news outlets including Azhimukham, Thejus Daily, and Thalsamayam Midday Daily, according to Azhimukham editor K. N. Ashok who spoke to CPJ by phone. Kappan is also the secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, a local trade group in Delhi, Ashok said.
In October 2020, police in Uttar Pradesh arrested Kappan, along with three political activists with whom he traveled, on his way to cover a gang-rape case that had sparked nationwide protests, Ashok told CPJ. Uttar Pradesh police later revealed that Kappan and the three activists were being held pending an investigation into alleged violations of the Indian penal code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Information Technology Act, according to a copy of the police report, which CPJ reviewed, and local news reports.
Later that month, India’s Supreme Court rejected a bail application filed for Kappan by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists.
Kappan was not provided access to a lawyer until November 17—43 days into his detention— when he was allowed to speak to his lawyer in a five-minute phone call.
In February 2021, the Enforcement Directorate filed a chargesheet, which details the charges against Kappan and three others, accusing them of laundering foreign funds to incite unrest in the country in violation of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, news reports said.
On April 4, 2021, the Uttar Pradesh police filed a chargesheet accusing Kappan and three others of sedition and conspiring to incite caste violence, according to the Indian Express. In the chargesheet, the police Special Task Force accused Kappan of being an irresponsible journalist who “only reports to incite Muslims” and to sympathize with Maoists and Communists.
The 5,000-page chargesheet includes text from 36 articles that Kappan wrote for a Malayalam-language news outlet on religious and sectarian issues, according to The Indian Express.
If convicted of sedition, Kappan could face life imprisonment; if convicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, he could face five years to life.
On September 9, 2022, India’s Supreme Court granted Kappan bail in the Uttar Pradesh police’s case, but as of December 1, 2022, Kappan remained detained in connection with money laundering charges.
His bail plea was rejected by the Lucknow local court on October 31, legal news website Live Law said.
CPJ emailed the Enforcement Directorate and Devendra Singh Chauhan, director general of the Uttar Pradesh police, for comment, but did not receive any replies.