It has been a heavy month for the UP police which has decided to go after journalists who have been reporting on administrative failures and law and order issues in the state.
After journalist Pawan Jaiswal was booked in August for reporting on children were being given just roti and salt in the government’s midday meal scheme, the state administration and police have taken legal action against at least eight journalists in September alone.
In the last three weeks, eight journalists slapped with legal cases in Uttar Pradesh. Please know that even when journalists have strong cases, it is also the long, overwhelming judicial process that is also part of the punishment. #PressFreedom https://t.co/pWbKzoHMEx
— Neha Dixit (@nehadixit123) September 19, 2019
Here is a list of journalists who are struggling against the state police for their reporting.
1. Pawan Jaiswal who exposed the “roti-namak” story
A few days ago, Jaiswal had put out a video saying that an FIR had been lodged against him for two weeks and that he was worried about his future.
This clip is from a @UPGovt school in east UP's #Mirzapur . These children are being served what should be a 'nutritious' mid day meal ,part of a flagship govt scheme .On the menu on Thursday was roti + salt !Parents say the meals alternate between roti + salt and rice + salt ! pic.twitter.com/IWBVLrch8A
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) August 23, 2019
Jaiswal broke a news story which was familiar yet important – children in a primary school in Mirzapur were being given just roti and salt as a part of the midday meal scheme which has been designed and run by the government to ensure that India’s poorest children get at least one nutritious meal a day and have an incentive to go to school.
A fresh statement from #PawanJaiswal , the reporter from #Mirzapur who broke the rotis + salt to kids story. Two weeks after an FIR against him for doing his job , the case has not been withdrawn . Pawan says he is very worried . We should all stand with him ! @IndEditorsGuild pic.twitter.com/IdPGo7I2ih
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) September 14, 2019
Parents of the children from the school said that children were always being served roti and salt or rice and salt. The woman who was tasked with cooking the meals in question also alleged that she was not given any supplies to cook and hence only roti, rice and salt were being served. She also said the journalist had not done anything wrong by reporting on this.
The police have reportedly charged Jaiswal with criminal conspiracy, obstructing public servants from doing their job, giving false evidence and cheating.
2. Five journalists booked for reporting on an alleged caste altercation
A few days later, on 7 September, police in Bijnor filed a criminal complaint against five journalists who were reporting on cases of alleged caste discrimination. Two of the reporters – Ashish Tomar and Shakeel Ahmed – were from Dainik Jagran and News18.
The journalists had reported on a Valmiki family that had allegedly put its house on sale after the family was prohibited from collecting water from their village’s hand pump. They had reportedly been barred from accessing the water by an influential Dalit family in the same village.
The police said that the journalists had themselves written on the house of the Valmiki’s, that it was for sale and claimed that the issue had been resolved by the village head.
An inquiry by the district magistrate said that the journalists had spread “negative” and “false” news.
The police’s FIR said that the journalists had concocted the story and were trying to vitiate the social amity of the area by circulating what the police called “fake news.” The FIR booked them for promoting enmity, nuisance and criminal intimidation. The police accused them of making statements which were against “national integration.”
Local journalists once again came together in support of the five journalists. They claimed the police had, in fact, pressurised the villagers to come up with a different story.
3. Journalist booked for report on children mopping floors in a school
On September 7 again, the police in Azamgarh also arrested Santosh Jaiswal. He had also been reporting on conditions in government schools and about students were being made to clean the school. After he took photos of students mopping the floor, he got into an argument with the school’s principal and Jaiswal himself called the police to inform them about what had been happening.
The school principal then allegedly told the police that Jaiswal used to visit the school and would misbehave with the staff and persuade them to buy his newspaper. The principal also said that Jaiswal had himself gotten the children to mop the floor so that he could take photos of them.
Jaiswal was arrested and later released by 11 September after the district magistrate intervened. The police’s charges against him were for extortion and obstructing public servants from discharging their work.