Police on Monday arrested a cartoonist in southern India for depicting the region’s top government functionaries in a “derogatory” caricature, sparking criticism over the move as an attack on freedom of the press.
G Balakrishnan, 36, a freelancer associated with an online news portal, was held, in Tamil Nadu State capital, Chennai, on Sunday, for the caricature that blamed chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and top officials for not acting against loan sharks active in the state.
Police officer Anita Arokyamery said that he was charged with publishing defamatory and obscene material under the Indian Penal Code as well as the Information Technology Act, crimes punishable with three years in jail.
“He was produced before a court on Monday which released him on bail.
“The court told him to make himself available for questioning as and when the police requires,” she added.
After his release, Balakrishnan told reporters he would continue to highlight the inefficiencies of the government through his work.
Balakrishnan drew the cartoon after a worker immolated himself and three members of his family in the Tirunelveli district, unable to bear harassment by a money lender who lent him money at a very high interest rate.
The arrest sparked a controversy after media groups planned a protest in Chennai saying it was an attempt to quash free speech and silence critics.
India, the world’s largest democracy, is ranked a poor 136th among 180 countries on the 2017 World Press Freedom index.
There have been questions over press freedom amid the targeting and arrests of journalists in recent months. (NAN)