“Fortifying freedom” and “why we need a bail law” – this was the crux of two editorials in leading newspapers on the Supreme Court granting Alt News cofounder Muhammed Zubair filed against him. After 23 days, Zubair walked out of jail last night.
The in Indian Express said the apex court’s intervention was “welcome and hopeful” at a time when “FIRs are being filed at the drop of a ‘hurt’ hat”. “The court has drawn some red lines that should henceforth force authorities to think before acting against individuals on the flimsiest of reasons..."
Express added that “state outreach has become epidemic with over-sensitive agencies penalising dissenters, presumably to please their political bosses” – as an example.
“That’s why the Zubair order is special and significant,” the editorial said. “For, by ordering Zubair’s release, the highest court has fortified the practice of free speech and fair comment. Its message needs to go right down.”
The in Times of India struck a more cautious note.
“While freeing Mohammed Zubair, the Supreme Court said the power to arrest must be used sparingly,” the editorial began. “This has been repeated umpteen times by the SC, but to little effect.” TOI said all courts must “grant immediate bail in most minor offences and especially those related to free speech” – thereby cementing the theory that bail is norm, rather than exception. The apex court’s position should be “the default position”.
Former BJP spokesperson also found a mention in the editorial, with TOI saying she too “deserves protection from multiple FIRs”.
It also commented on the court pointing out that a journalist cannot be asked not to tweet: “This may seem reiteration of a basic understanding of rights and responsibilities but given police and lower court actions – in states governed by political parties across the spectrum – it is heartening that SC made things clear.”
For more on the cases filed against Zubair, in Newslaundry.
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