A Dublin-based human rights protection group has urged the Indian government to drop charges against journalist Poonam Agarwal, who has been booked under the stringent Official Secrets Act for carrying out a sting on the abuse of the “buddy” system in the army.
In a statement, the group Front Line Defenders, asked the government to ensure that human rights activists are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
“Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the charges brought against Poonam Agarwal, which it believes are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights in India,” the group said.
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It said this is not the first time charges under the OSA a 1923 anti-espionage act held over from the British era— has been used against journalists who report on sensitive stories.
“Immediately drop all charges against Poonam Agarwal as it believes that they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights,” the group urged the Indian government.
Nashik Police has registered the case against Agarwal under Sections 3 (spying) and 7 (interfering with officers of the police or members of the armed forces of Union) of the OSA after a complaint from Army officials.
Agarwal is accused of entering Heig Lines in Deolali camp without the permission of the authorities and filming the premises besides carrying out a sting operation on Roy Mathew and other jawans on February 24 in which she is said to have asked leading questions, the police official said.
Mathew (33) was found hanging from the ceiling of a room in an abandoned barrack in Deolali cantonment on March 2.