The India-European Union summit is taking place virtually today, with discussions expected to launch negotiations on trade and investment.
In the backdrop of the summit, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent an email yesterday urging the European Union to "call for the release of all imprisoned journalists" at the summit.
In an email addressed to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel, the CPJ said that as India grappled with the Covid surge, the Modi government "responded in part by attempting to clamp down on criticism and reporting".
"The clampdown on critical reporting during the pandemic has created conditions of fear and vulnerability among the journalist community that look likely to persist," the letter said. "In times of crisis, it is even more important for the public to have access to trustworthy and accurate information and reporting. The European Union should emphasize this, and urge the Indian government not to interfere with or retaliate against journalists who are doing their jobs."
The letter cited four journalists currently jailed: Siddique Kappan, Aasif Sultan, Anand Teltumbde, and Gautam Navlakha. "None of these journalists should ever have been jailed in the first place, have been repeatedly denied bail, and now face grave risks to their lives. All should be freed immediately."
The email, sent by CPJ's executive director Joel Simon, concluded: "As leaders from both sides discuss the pandemic, trade, and the environment during this important summit, EU leaders should ensure that press freedom concerns are not sidelined, but prioritized, and make public and robust calls for India to release all journalists in detention."