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Akhilesh Yadav govt launched helpline for UP journalists. But dialling it won’t help

UP is notorious for violence against journalists, topping NCRB list. Between 2011 and 2016, 70 cases of violence against journalists were recorded in the state.

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New Delhi: The alleged harassment of journalists in Uttar Pradesh has been a common theme in recent headlines, but mediapersons have been unable to find help in a state government helpline launched expressly for this purpose. The reason: The helpline was shut down after a period of “sluggish” handling, according to the UP government.  

A high-profile incident of harassment came this month as a journalist was booked for reporting that a government school in Mirzapur was serving chapatis and salt for midday meals, which are given out as part of a government-sponsored programme to ensure nutritious food for all children. 

However, Pawan Kumar Jaiswal is far from the first UP journalist to face hostility in the line of duty — according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the state tops the country in violence against journalists.

From 2011 to 2016, the last year for which NRCB data was released, as many as 70 cases of violence against journalists were recorded in UP. A few journalists, including freelancer Jagendra Singh, have also died in that period. 

Several journalists contacted by ThePrint said the helpline (1880-1800-303), launched by the former Samajwadi Party (SP) government in 2016, proved of no use to them because the number showed up “invalid”. 

Meanwhile, the UP government, under fire for the alleged persecution of journalists uncovering uncomfortable truths, said it was trying to get the helpline up and running again.

Also Read: Editors Guild urges UP govt to withdraw cases against journalist who shot mid-day meal video

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The helpline, which sought to protect journalists, came after the Akhilesh Yadav government found itself at the centre of a controversy that erupted in the wake of freelancer Jagendra’s death in June 2015.

The Shahjahanpur-based journalist, known to dish out hard-hitting reports on illegal mining etc in Hindi, was doused in petrol and set on fire, allegedly by the associates of Akhilesh’s minister Ram Murti Verma. Two weeks before his death, Jagendra had reportedly made a social media post about a threat to his life over the nature of his reportage.

Although said to be stuck now on account of hostile witnesses, the case had triggered immense outrage in 2015. Consequently, Akhilesh had set up the helpline in January 2016, making UP the first state to put such an initiative in place.

The state government’s information and public relations department was entrusted with the responsibility of running the helpline. 

Navneet Sehgal, principal secretary in the Akhilesh government, had said at the time, “Now, journalists working in far-flung areas need not come to Lucknow for each and every problem faced by them. Through this helpline, most of their grievances will be resolved at district level by either the district magistrate or another high-level official.” 

Three years later, the state information and public relations department has no data regarding help offered through the helpline. 

Also Read: In Karnataka, 16 journalists arrested in 1 year, most for blackmail & false propaganda

No help

While the helpline launch was widely covered by the media, small-town journalists told ThePrint that they had never heard of it. Those who did said they got no help from it, and the helpline shut down inconspicuously.

Ashish Tomar is one of two Bijnor-based journalists booked this month for “spreading hatred”, among other charges, when they reported that Dalits were selling their houses after some local musclemen curtailed their access to water. 

According to Tomar, when he tried the helpline, he couldn’t get through.

Krishna Kumar, who was allegedly thrashed by a mob in Chunar, Mirzapur, on 2 September, faced a similar response, saying he had received no help at all from the state government. 

“After 2 September, not even a simple X-Ray was performed on me. I was brutally thrashed but even after knocking on several doors for assistance, I did not get any kind of support,” he added. 

Jaiswal said the helpline had helped few. “Several people have lodged their complaints with it, but none of their issues was ever resolved,” he added.

Shishir Singh, director at UP information and public relations department, said the “helpline was run for some time but some sluggishness crept in later”. 

“Very few complaints were registered with us and later on this helpline was shut down. But I had called a meeting on 12 September attended by… at least 18 people from different media institutions,” he added. “We discussed recent incidents concerning journalists and a proposal was made to restart this helpline.”

If the process is made available online, then it will be easy for journalists to reach out to us. This is because, on several occasions, journalists fear losing ad contracts or government work if they come to the office to register complaints,” he said. “We are making a wholehearted effort to resolve the problems of journalists.” 

‘No democracy’

Speaking to ThePrint, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said the helpline was yet another initiative of the party that had fallen on hard times under the Yogi Adityanath administration of the BJP. 

“Which scheme launched for common people is being effectively run by this party (BJP)? There is no democracy. We started a helpline for the journalists but this government has started to threaten journalists,” he added. 

However, Piyush Rai, who covers Uttar Pradesh for The Times of India, said journalists faced threats under all administrations. 

“Whichever party comes to power starts threatening journalists. Right now, there is no important institution in UP that can protect the interest of journalists,” he added.      

Also Read: Journalist in trouble in UP again, this time for taking photos of kids mopping school floor


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  1. This is tradigy of UP and Bihar is known to common man. Power and goonda raj prevails as corruption is in extreme. God may help the.people.

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