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'Concentrate on Attacking the Virus', Says DUJ After UP Police Serve Notice on The Wire

Despite the nationwide lockdown, the police summoned Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire, to Ayodhya on April 14.

New Delhi: The Delhi Union of Journalists has described the UP police’s move to serve a notice on Siddharth Varadarajan, The Wire‘s founding editor, as “harassment of a senior journalist and an attack on media freedom at a critical time”.

Varadarajan was served the notice on Friday in connection with two FIRs registered against him for alleged “objectionable” comment on UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The police sought his presence in Ayodhya on April 14 at 10 am, despite the fact that the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus would still be in place then.

The Wire has already issued a statement on the FIRs being registered.

The statement by the DUJ said that during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, journalists are putting their lives at risk to “report developments vital to control of this national health emergency”. “The nation and its leadership should appreciate the valuable work being done by us in these challenging times, instead of settling political scores,” it says.

Also Read: UP Police Serve Notice on The Wire, Summon Founding Editor to Ayodhya Despite Lockdown

“We demand immediate withdrawal of the charges against Varadarajan and The Wire. We urge all governments, both in the states and at the centre, to concentrate on attacking the virus and protecting citizens from the fallout of the lockdown, including joblessness and accompanying hunger, instead of attacking media persons,” the statement adds.

The full statement has been reproduced below.

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DUJ Demands Withdrawal of FIRs Against Wire Editor

The Delhi Union of Journalists condemns the U.P. Government’s move to serve a notice on Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire, for appearance in Ayodhya on the morning of April 14, 2020 in connection with two FIRs lodged against him for his writings. The notice was served at his home in Delhi on April 10 by several policemen.

In view of the current lockdown, it is evident that Varadarajan would not be able to travel to Ayodhya in time for such an appearance. This is clearly harassment of a senior journalist and an attack on media freedom at a critical time.

In the unprecedented Corona crisis journalists are literally putting their lives at risk to report developments vital to control of this national health emergency. The nation and its leadership should appreciate the valuable work being done by us in these challenging times, instead of settling political scores.

The FIRs against Varadarajan reportedly invoke Section 66 D of the IT Act, which involves punishment for cheating by impersonation by using computer resource as well as IPC Sections 188 (disobedience to order issued by a public servant) and 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes).

We note that many journalists have already signed a statement condemning the filing of these charges. Further, the Editors’ Guild of India has termed them “an overreaction and an act of intimidation”.

We demand immediate withdrawal of the charges against Varadarajan and The Wire. We urge all governments, both in the states and at the centre, to concentrate on attacking the virus and protecting citizens from the fallout of the lockdown, including joblessness and accompanying hunger, instead of attacking media persons. It is our job to report freely and fearlessly and we must be allowed to safeguard the health and wellbeing of citizens by doing our duty.

Sd/-                                                                            Sd/-

S.K. Pande                                                            Sujata Madhok

(President)                                                       (General Secretary)