India continues to use “force” to silence the media across the nation. Journalists around the nation are being silenced when they write/report about policies nof the government that are not democratic and not in the interests of the larger public.
The FIRs were filed across three BJP-ruled states against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, India Today journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha, The Caravan magazine’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, its editor Anant Nath and executive editor Vinod K. Jose, and one unnamed person. On Saturday night, the Delhi police also filed a similar case.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered an FIR against journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of The Wire, for “provocative” tweets over the death of a Rampur farmer during the tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day. The FIR, registered by the Rampur police, invoked Sections 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505(2) (inciting for violence) of the Indian Penal Code, Varadarajan said in a tweet.
The tweet referred to the FIR had quoted the grandfather of the deceased farmer alleging that one of the doctors who conducted the autopsy told him that the man died of a bullet injury, along with a link to the full story. The Wire article included statements by the police and doctors rejecting the claims. Varadarajan described the FIR as “malicious prosecution”.
The development follows FIRs against television journalist Rajdeep Sardesai; National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande; Caravan’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, its editor Anant Nath and executive editor Vinod K Jose; and Qaumi Awaz’s editor Zafar Agha for ‘misleading’ tweets on the death of the farmer.
“This is a clear case of overreach by the police and administration of the state governments which allowed the registration of the FIRs. If sedition charges are going to be invoked at the drop of the hat, where will we head to?” T.K. Rajalakshmi of the IWPC told The Wire.
The sedition cases that have been slapped on journalists for sharing “unverified” news during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on January 26 reeks of a conspiracy, observed a host of media and journalists’ bodies at a press conference on Saturday.
The joint press meeting was organized by the Press Club of India (PCI), the Editors’ Guild of India, the Press Association, the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Indian Journalists Union, which was packed with the country’s best known journalists.
The FIRs have been filed in relation to the reporting of the farmers’ tractor rally, held on January 26 in Delhi, in which some early reports had suggested that a young farmer had died from a police bullet. Later, it was claimed that he died because his tractor overturned.
The PCI has expressed shock over criminal charges being pressed against journalists even as a reliable post mortem report in the case has not yet come out. “This is a pathetic excuse on the part of the concerned state governments. In a moving story, things change on a regular basis. Accordingly, the reporting reflects the circumstances, when large crowds are involved and the air is thick with suppositions, suspicions, and hypotheses, there can sometimes be a divergence between earlier and later reports. It is criminal to ascribe this to motivated reporting, as is sought to have been done,” the PCI said in a statement.
There are writers and media personnel, human rights defenders and activists, academics and others, from every corner of the country, who despite all odds, face fascists fearlessly. They are the ones genuinely concerned about what is happening in the country today, writes Cedric Prakash in “Facing Fascists Fearlessly.
The Editors Guild of India had termed the FIRs an “attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media”, and demanded their immediate withdrawal.