Comment was made against a BJP MP by a member on a Facebook group run by the journalist09 Sep 2020

In a shocking turn of events, Tsewang Rigzin, the Leh correspondent of State Times, was arrested for a comment posted on a Facebook group run by him, reported TheWire. Rigzin is the admin of a group page titled Ladakh in the Media that has 34,000 members.

On September 3, one of the group members had posted an allegedly offensive comment against BJP MP Jamyang Sering Namgyal. Namgyal then filed a complaint following which the police arrested Rigzin on September 5 as he is the admin of the group. Though he was released on bail the same day, the entire incident highlights the impunity of the State, especially when it comes to controlling the media. Interestingly the person who originally posted the comment remains untraceable.

In a recent Facebook post about the entire episode, Rigzin said, “On 5th of September I was arrested on the pretext of a comment made against MP Ladakh by someone on ‘Ladakh In The Media’ – FaceBook group that I maintain. Police brought this to my notice on 4th of September in the morning, and I said I would remove the post immediately. But I was advised by the police not to delete the comment since it was being investigated.”

“On 5th I was again asked, so I went to the police station around 5PM, where I was informed that being the admin of the group I would be arrested because police were not able to find the person who made the comment. I extended my cooperation to the police because I felt that they were only doing as directed by high command,” added Rigzin.

The timing of Rigzin’s arrest is also curious as just days before his arrest he had raised concerns about the rights of tribal people in connection with a resolution passed by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). It is noteworthy that during a sabbatical from journalism, Rigzin was a part of LAHDC, but he left in 2015.

“I have serious doubts about the action, because this came two days after General Council of LAHDC Leh passed a resolution on constitutional safeguard for Ladakh. I did raise questions about why this resolution had multiple options. I questioned why LAHDC GC was so indecisive to have not been able to focus on one proposal.  I feel that the action against me was just an excuse to harass me, and to silence the voices of thousands of people who are coming out so strongly in support of Sixth Schedule,” says Rigzin.

The entire FB video in Ladakhi accompanying the post may be viewed here:

Meanwhile, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) issued a statement condemning Rigzin’s arrest. IJU president K Sreenivas Reddy and secretary general and member of Press Council of India (PCI) Balwinder Singh Jammu called the arrest a “blatant attack on freedom of expression” and termed Rigzin’s arrest “illegal and arbitrary”. The press release may be read here:

Rigzin may have walked into the regime’s crosshairs last year in the run up to the May 2019 Parliamentary elections, when BJP leader Vikram Singh Randhawa had allegedly bribed journalists at a press meet in a purported bid to influence the outcome of the elections. This was the election where Namgyal was elected to the Parliament. At that time, Rigzin, in his capacity as the General Secretary of Leh Press Club, had played a key role in filing an FIR against Randhawa. It is also noteworthy that Namgyal is the same MP who gave a passionate speech in the Parliament supporting the abrogation of Article 370 last year.

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