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New Delhi: The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), on Monday, June 13, issued a press release condemning the inclusion of journalist Saba Naqvi’s name in FIRs lodged by the Delhi Police in the aftermath of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma’s comments against Prophet Mohammed on TV.
Police have said Naqvi’s was among social media posts that were “inciting people”.
Naqvi is among more than 31 individuals named in one of two FIRs registered by the Delhi Police on June 8, three days after BJP suspended Nupur Sharma and its Delhi media unit head Naveen Jindal after an unprecedented diplomatic backlash.
The police had cited social media posts by individuals “trying to disrupt public tranquility and inciting people on divisive lines” in a tweet describing the FIRs.
Even as Notices are being sent to social media intermediaries for details of those behind these accounts/entities, #DelhiPolice appeals to everyone to desist from posting anything that may disrupt social and communal harmony.#DelhiPoliceCares
— Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) June 9, 2022
In a statement to The Wire after the FIR came to light, Naqvi had said, “I am shocked to learn that my name has been included in an FIR registered by Delhi Police under various sections of the IPC. I am a journalist and tasked with speaking truth to power. Social media and news sites suggest the FIR has been filed because of a WhatsApp forward that I shared only to delete it a few hours later. Many others also shared the same image yet I have been selectively targeted in the FIR.”
“I am committed to the secular and liberal ethos of India and stand against any fundamentalism, hate speech and injustice. I am currently out of India and will comply with due process on my return in mid-July,” she had added.
The DUJ press release, titled, ‘DUJ Protests Targeting of Veteran Journalist Saba Naqvi’ and undersigned by president S.K. Pande and general secretary Sujata Madhok, describes Naqvi as “a veteran journalist known for her mature, balanced views expressed in TV debates and her writings”.
As such, it questions her being charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 153 (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), and 505 (inducing to commit an offence against the state or against the public tranquillity) “for a retweet of a meme”.
While the police did not make any mention of a specific post for which action was taken against Naqvi, the DUJ statement attributes the police action to a tweet “retweeted by many people and shared on Whatsapp in countless groups”.
The release also calls it “inexplicable” that Naqvi was named in the FIR alongside such individuals as Pooja Shakun Pandey and Maulana Mufti Nadeem.
Pandey, also known as ‘Annapurna Maa’, is an office bearer of the Hindu Mahasabha and, as the statement notes, “once posed shooting at a photograph of Mahatma Gandhi”. Pandey was also a speaker at the Haridwar Dharma Sansad, where open calls for the genocide of Muslims were made, and recently had another FIR filed against her by the Uttar Pradesh police after she described Muslims’ Friday prayers as an “anti-Hindu congregation” on a TV news channel.
Nadeem was recently seen in a viral video online threatening to chop off the hands of those who spoke against the Prophet.
Others named in the FIRs include suspended BJP leader Sharma herself; Naveen Jindal, a fellow BJP leader who shared Sharma’s remarks against the Prophet on Twitter and was subsequently expelled; and Yati Narsinghanand, a militant Hindutva priest who also featured as a speaker in the Haridwar Dharma Sansad, among others.
Even All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi was named in the FIR. He had been vocal in his condemnation of Sharma’s remarks online and had even filed a complaint with the Hyderabad Police regarding the same, which led to an FIR being filed against her.
The DUJ statement points out that this is the second time an FIR has been registered against Naqvi for a retweet.
In June, 2021, Naqvi was amongst several journalists and news outlets named in an FIR by the Uttar Pradesh Police for posts on an elderly man who had alleged assault in Ghaziabad. The victim, a 72-year-old Muslim man, was seen in a video with his beard cut off, alleging that the attackers had made him chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
Naqvi was named in the late-night FIR along with AltNews journalist Mohammad Zubair; journalist Rana Ayub; the Congress’s Salman Nizami, Maskoor Usmani and Shama Mohamed; social media giant Twitter INC and Twitter Communications India PVT; and The Wire.
The DUJ press release goes on to say that Naqvi, being a prominent Muslim woman journalist, “has repeatedly faced the wrath of trolls and mischiefmakers”.
“In January this year, she was one among the Muslim women in public life who were ‘auctioned’ on the Internet. Other journalists were also targeted in the demeaning ‘Bulli Bai’ online auction, which displayed their photographs, with objectionable comments,” the release reads. It also mentions prominent Muslim woman journalists Arfa Khanum Sherwani and Ismat Ara.
Noting the aforementioned facts, the DUJ statement calls for the “immediate withdrawal” of charges and police action against Naqvi.
The DUJ was not the only journalist’s body to issue a statement with regards to the proceedings against Naqvi. The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), on June 10, released a statement expressing shock at the FIR and called for the withdrawal of the FIR.
IWPC a statement pic.twitter.com/1HHuf9NKg5
— Saba Naqvi (@_sabanaqvi) June 10, 2022
“It appears that select people are being targeted for their views, which is very unfortunate. Time and again, we have seen that it leads to undue harassment of individuals on a subjective basis,” the IWPC statement reads.
Similarly, the Press Club of India (PCI), too, called for the withdrawal of the FIR, calling the police action “whimsical” and “lopsided”.
…her posts blasphemous thereby registering her as accused for a crime which she has not committed at all.
The Press Club demands immediate withdrawal of FIR against her and all on-going enquiries against her be stopped forthwith.
— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) June 10, 2022
The DUJ statement concludes by saying, “We condemn the increasing tendency to file criminal cases against journalists for their reportage and comments in the media. The list of those who face such charges is long and growing which bodes ill for democracy and free speech.”