New Delhi: The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organisation that promotes press freedom worldwide, has issued a statement in solidarity with journalists named in a recent FIR by the Uttar Pradesh police.
On Tuesday night, police registered an FIR against The Wire, journalists Rana Ayub, Mohammed Zubair and Saba Naqvi, Twitter India and some Congress leaders for tweets about a Muslim man’s allegations of assault in Ghaziabad district.
“Indian authorities singling out journalists, some of whom are known for critical coverage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for sharing and commenting on a video looks suspiciously like selective law enforcement and amounts to a serious attack on press freedom,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Uttar Pradesh police must withdraw their complaint immediately and stop harassing journalists and news outlets.”
The complaint states that police are investigating the three journalists and The Wire for violating Sections 153 (provocation to cause a riot), 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups), 295A (insulting religious beliefs), 505 (public mischief), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian penal code.
While the police claims that there was no communal angle to the attack and this was being misreported with intentions to spread tensions, the man’s family has challenged the police’s version. As The Wire has reported, the family has said that Abdul Samad Saifi’s written complaint of June 6 contained details which made it clear he had been subjected to communal taunts and threats.
Several media bodies in India have condemned the police action and asked for the case to be dropped. “The follow-up news stories and tweets were on the basis of incidents that were already public knowledge and talking about them or sharing them is neither a threat to public order nor is it done with the intent to spread hatred,” the Indian Women’s Press Corps has said.
“The filing of the FIR clearly shows vendetta of Ghaziabad police to create a sense of state terror in the media and society at large,” the Press Club of India’s statement reads.