Freed TV anchor vows to fight on

Kishorechandra Wangkhem, the 39-year-old television anchor who was freed on Wednesday after four months in prison on charges of sedition under the National Security Act (NSA), said he would continue to fight for freedom of speech.

He also said he would do his bit towards getting another “draconian piece of law” — the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 — scrapped.

“NSA and AFSPA are draconian laws not suitable for a democratic country like ours.”

“I am not the right person to go against these laws, but I will contribute towards scrapping them,” he said from Imphal, hours after his release from Sajiwa Central Jail in the afternoon.

Mr Wangkhem said the time he spent in jail taught him perseverance, endurance, and tolerance. “It was an experience that I can use in the struggle henceforth for freedom of speech and expression,” he added.

The journalist declined to term his release as a victory for free speech and human rights defenders. “This is the beginning of the fight, not a victory. I am not the first one to be arrested for criticising the government. There were many before me. There is a lot that we need to do because this should not happen to anyone. I stood up and fought back and will continue fighting,” he said.

Mr. Wangkhem further said that life in prison acquainted him with the loopholes in the system. “I learnt that the jail authorities are not able to provide all the facilities because of a small budget allocated by the government,” he said.

His wife Ranjita Elangbam said happiness has returned to her family after four torturous months. “This is a very happy moment. His release was justice delayed but not denied. I want to thank the judiciary for keeping democracy alive,” she said.

The Manipur High Court had on Monday released Mr. Wangkhem four months after he was lodged in the Sajiwa jail on the outskirts of Imphal on November 27. The NSA was slapped against him for criticising Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh, who he said was a “puppet” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

His release came a day ahead of the election to the Outer Manipur Lok Sabha constituency. Election to the Inner Manipur constituency, in which Mr Wangkhem is a voter, is scheduled on April 18.


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