(New York, NY) – Authorities in India’s Uttar Pradesh state filed a criminal complaint against an editor and founder of the news website The Wire for the outlet’s reporting on a government minister violating the country’s coronavirus lockdown. The allegations against Siddharth Varadarajan came after a March 31 piece in The Wire documented Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister attending a public religious gathering.

PEN America’s Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of free expression at risk programs, said the following:

“These charges are a blatant attempt to intimidate a leading media outlet. In a show of absurdity, state government officials drove hours from the town of Ayodhya to Delhi – some 400 miles – to serve notice to Varadarajan. And they have requested that he personally appear in Ayodhya on April 14, in the midst of the lockdown. It is further proof that state authorities are misusing their power. It is the job of media outlets to report the news, and this job is even more essential during a public health crisis, when access to information can mean the difference between life and death. We call on the Uttar Pradesh state government to dismiss these charges, and to refrain from intimidating the press.”

Freedom of expression has been under heightened pressure in India under the current national government and its allies, including legal cases against journalists and writers, as well as physical and verbal attacks and harassment by both state and non-state actors. In recent months, PEN America has spoken out against the withdrawal of overseas citizenship of U.S.-based writer and journalist of Indian origin Aatish Taseer, among a number of worrying cases of retaliation against dissenting or critical voices.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892