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J&K to Kerala, Gujarat, Bengal — Journalists across India face police action, even for tweets

Here's a list of journalists across 18 states and UTs who have either been arrested or have been booked under several sections of the IPC since March.

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New Delhi: In the last eight months, states across the country have seen a sudden surge in registration of cases against journalists, including some charged under the stringent anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

From Uttar Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh to Maharashtra, journalists are facing police action for their reports, videos, and in some cases, even tweets. 

ThePrint compiled a list of journalists across 18 states and UTs who have either been arrested or have been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) since March.

Uttar Pradesh

Vijay Vineet and Subhash Rai: On 26 March, the Varanasi District Magistrate handed out a notice to Jansandesh Times journalist Vijay Vineet and its editor-in-chief Subhash Rai for a report that claimed that members of the Musahar community were surviving on grass in Koiripur village after the lockdown was announced.

Siddharth Varadarajan: The Uttar Pradesh police in Faizabad registered an FIR against The Wire and its editor Siddharth Varadarajan on 1 April for reporting that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had attended a public religious event in Ayodhya on 25 March after Prime Minister Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national Covid lockdown announcement. Varadarajan has been booked under Section 188 (disobedience of an order issued by a public servant) and 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the IPC. 

Prashant Kanojia: On 7 April, the police lodged an FIR against journalist Prashant Kanojia for allegedly making “objectionable remarks” about PM Modi and CM Adityanath on social media. The case was lodged at the Ashiana police station in Lucknow on the basis of a complaint registered by local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shashank Shekhar Singh. Kanojia was charged for defamation, printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory and offence committed with the intention to cause fear or alarm among the public, or induce people against the state.

Unnamed: On 13 April, four journalists including the editors of news agency IANS and website Business Insider were booked for spreading “fake news” about an incident in which a woman hurled her five children into a river. The FIR did not identify the journalists by name.

Manish Pandey: The police summoned journalist Manish Pandey of News1 India to the Special Task Force headquarters in Lucknow on 30 April for publishing an official letter on poor quality of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits

Ravindra Saxena: An FIR was registered against Today-24 News journalist Ravindra Saxena on 18 May for alleged misreporting on the ‘mismanagement and negligence’ at a quarantine centre in Sitapur district. In a video report, Saxena had spoken to people at a quarantine centre in Maholi tehsil of Sitapur, who alleged that they were served rotten rice. A Scheduled Caste employee at the Sub-Divisional Magistrate office accused the journalist of violating the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Disaster Management Act.

Aashish Avasthi: Two days later, an FIR was lodged against journalist Aashish Avasthi, an editor at Media Break, for publication of a report over problems being faced by Home Guards during Covid.

Supriya Sharma: In June, an FIR was filed against Supriya Sharma, a journalist at Scroll, and the news website’s editor-in-chief (not named) for allegedly misrepresenting facts in a report on the impact of the lockdown in a village adopted by PM Modi.

The FIR was lodged on the complaint of Mala Devi, a resident of Domari village, which was adopted by Modi under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. The report had quoted Devi as having said that she is a domestic worker and had been facing shortage of essential food items as she did not have a ration card. 

However, in the FIR, she accused Sharma of “mocking my poverty and caste” by claiming that she and her children went hungry during the lockdown. The police booked Sharma under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act along with Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 501 (printing matter that is defamatory) of the IPC. 

Siddique Kappan: On 7 October, the UP police arrested four persons including journalist Siddique Kappan, who works with news portal Azhimukham, while they were on their way to Hathras to meet the family of the gangrape victim. All four were booked for sedition and under UAPA. The police accused the journalist of having links with the alleged radical group Popular Front of India and its affiliates.


Also read: Modi’s lockdown beard is here to stay. It has much to achieve, politically


Himachal Pradesh

Om Sharma: In March, three FIRs were registered against Om Sharma, a reporter for Divya Himachal, for his reporting on Covid-related issues. In one case he was accused of spreading “sensational/fake news on social media” after he went live on his Facebook page, showing the plight of migrants, who protested on the roadside near the industrial area of Baddi over unavailability of ration. In another case, he was booked for sharing an Amar Ujala report on Facebook. He was booked under Section 54 (punishment for false warning) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and four sections of the IPC: 182 (false information), 188 (disobedience to a public servant’s order), 269, and 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others).

Jagat Bains: Three FIRs were registered against Jagat Bains, a reporter with News18 Himachal, in the same month for his reporting on how rations were not reaching migrant workers in parts of Nalagarh subdivision in Solan district.

Vishal Anand: In April, journalist Vishal Anand was accused of misrepresentation and was booked for using pictures of Gandhi Chowk in Dalhousie for a story on Covid in Chamba district.

Ashwani Saini: In the same month, five FIRs were registered against Ashwani Saini, who contributes video reports for the Facebook page Mandi Live and freelances for Dainik Jagran. Saini was accused of spreading “fake news” after he reported on the failure of the administration to supply rations to migrant workers in Bharajwanoo village in the Sundernagar subdivision in Mandi.

Somdev Sharma: On 16 May, The Indian Express reported that Somdev Sharma, a Manali-based correspondent for Punjab Kesari, was booked by the police after he reported on the administration’s laxity in quarantining inter-state travellers. The police claimed that Sharma had falsely written in his report that a person entered the district illegally without a pass and hence created panic.


Also read: Hindutva, China, Covid & agriculture — Breaking down Mohan Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech


Maharashtra

Rahul Kulkarni: On 15 April, the Mumbai Police arrested ABP News correspondent Rahul Kulkarni “for spreading rumour” over his report that the Railways would restart operations (amid the lockdown), which the police alleged may have prompted gathering of hundreds of migrants outside the Bandra station in Mumbai.

Rahul Zori: A month later, the police booked Rahul Zori, a reporter with TV9 Marathi, for reporting on irregularities in the running of Hadakhed relief camp for migrants in Shirpur tehsil of Dhule. Zori was booked under penal sections for obstructing a public servant from doing their duty, defamation and publishing matter known to be defamatory.  

Arnab Goswami: The long-running battle between Republic TV and the Maharashtra government started with the Mumbai Police’s case against the channel owner and journalist Arnab Goswami for promoting social disharmony after he accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi of orchestrating the Palghar lynching. 

Goswami was booked under several sections including abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between different groups, defamation, and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.

On the same day, the Raipur Police in Chhattisgarh also registered two separate FIRs against Goswami. While related to inciting communal hatred over the Palghar lynching, the other was for spreading misinformation and fake news related to Covid. The first FIR was registered over separate complaints by Chhattisgarh Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo and Congress state president Mohan Markam. 

Two more FIRs were registered against Goswami, Republic TV and AGR Media Ltd in Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai. At least 101 FIRs were filed against him in the state. The Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress president Kunal Choudhary also filed a complaint with the MP director general of police to register a case against Goswami.

On 24 April, the Supreme Court granted three-week protection to Goswami against any coercive steps in connection with FIRs lodged against him in various states for alleged defamatory remarks on Gandhi. 

Three days later, he was reportedly interrogated for over 12 hours at a police station. 

On 3 May, another FIR was registered against Goswami and two others from the news channel on the charge of hurting religious sentiments by making a derogatory remark against a mosque located in suburban Bandra.

Months later, on 8 October, the Mumbai Police claimed to have busted a “racket” of “fradulent” manipulation of TRPs involving three channels including Republic TV.

Shivani Gupta, Sagrika Mitra, Shawan Sen & Niranjan Narayan and staff: On 23 October, the Mumbai Police registered a fresh FIR against Republic TV and booked its executive editor, anchor, two reporters and other editorial staff members for allegedly inciting “disaffection” among the police personnel against Commissioner Param Bir Singh and maligning the city police’s image.

Anchor Shivani Gupta, reporter Sagrika Mitra, reporter Shawan Sen and executive editor of the show, Niranjan Narayan Swami, and other editorial staff have been booked. The case was registered for a show under the segment Biggest Story Tonight, with a caption line: “Revolt Against Param Bir Singh? Senior officer part of the probe gives details”. 

This was the fourth criminal case registered against Republic TV and its employees by the city police.


Also read: News Broadcasters Association urges govt to withdraw CBI probe into TRP scam case


Jammu and Kashmir

Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai: Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai, who was working for Kashmir Observer, was arrested on 11 April for “violating the lockdown rules” and “interfering in the professional work of the officials”.

Masrat Zahra: A week later, the J&K Police booked Masrat Zahra, a freelance photojournalist, under UAPA for her alleged anti-national posts on social media. The police claimed that the Cyber Police Station received information through reliable sources that she was uploading anti-national posts with the criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offences against public tranquility.

Peerzada Ashiq: On 20 April, Peerzada Ashiq, a journalist with The Hindu, was sent a notice on 19 April and asked to explain “factual inaccuracies” in a story regarding an encounter between militants and security forces in south Kashmir’s Shopian. Two families had come forward to claim the bodies of the slain militants whom the authorities had called unidentified. The police claimed Ashiq’s report was “fake news” and was published without seeking confirmation from the district authorities. A case was also registered against him.

Gowhar Geelani: On 21 April, the Cyber Police Station of Kashmir Zone booked journalist and author Gowhar Geelani for allegedly indulging in unlawful activities through social media that are “prejudicial to the national integrity, sovereignty and security of India”. Geelani was alleged to have been glorifying terrorism in the Valley through his posts. 

Tamil Nadu

Damodharan: On the night of 7 April, Sun News journalist Damodharan, who shot visuals of a pharmacy staff handing out medicines to patients without a doctor’s consultation at the Primary Health Centre in Minjur, was arrested for spreading “fake news”. He was booked for cheating, forgery, and preventing a public servant from discharging his duty on the complaint of a doctor. 

Andrew Sam Raja Pandian: On 23 April, Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, founder of a portal called SimpliCity, was arrested in Coimbatore for filing news reports related to doctors facing shortage of food and PPE kits at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital and diversion of ration items by employees of PDS shops. After the publication of the report, the Assistant Commissioner of the Coimbatore Corporation, filed a complaint against the portal calling the report “false” and “provocative”.

Delhi

Rajesh Sharma: In September, a freelance journalist Rajesh Sharma was arrested under the Officials Secret Act for passing on sensitive information to China in exchange for hefty amounts since 2016. 

Vinod Dua: A case was filed against senior journalist Vinod Dua on complaint of one Naveen Kumar for the former’s YouTube show, in which he had talked about the riots that had happened in Northeast Delhi. The complaint was filed over 70 days after the webcast.

Madhya Pradesh

K.K. Saxena: On 27 March, an FIR was lodged in Bhopal against journalist K.K. Saxena for having attended Congress leader Kamal Nath’s last presser as CM on 20 March despite her daughter being a Covid suspect.

Tansen Tiwari: On 24 May, veteran journalist Tansen Tiwari was booked by the Madhya Pradesh Police for allegedly referring to BJP leaders as ‘gappu’ and ‘tadipar’ in a social media post. The police registered the case after a local BJP leader and advocate, Awdesh Singh Bhadauria, said that Tiwari’s post on Facebook indirectly described PM Modi as ‘gappu’ and other party leaders as ‘tadipar’ and ‘balatkari’.

Kerala

Abhilash Padachery: On 1 May, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detained journalist Abhilash Padachery for his alleged links with Maoists in Kerala. The NIA claimed that it found several documents supporting Left-wing extremism and banned CPI(Maoist) from Padachery.

Sudhir Chaudhary: On 7 May, the Kerala Police filed a case against Zee News editor-in-chief Sudhir Chaudhary for a controversial programme showing a “jihad chart” and detailing different “types of jihad” in a flowchart.


Also read: Things are calmer in Kashmir now. Modi govt must listen to its development pangs


West Bengal

Bhupendra Pratap Singh, Abhishek Singh, Hemant Chowrasia and Ayush Kumar Singh: These four TV journalists were booked in as many as five cases after they conducted a sting operation to show state ministers and Trinamool Congress MLAs allegedly taking bribes. 

The Kolkata Police had booked the journalists in January alleging that it was a bid to extort money from politicians. On 22 May, the Supreme Court restrained the state police from arresting the four journalists.

Rajasthan

Sharat Kumar and Lokendra Singh: On 1 October, the Ashok Gehlot-led government filed a case against Aaj Tak journalist Sharat Kumar and former deputy CM Sachin Pilot’s media advisor Lokendra Singh, accusing them of spreading “fake news” about the alleged phone tapping of MLAs during the political crisis in the state in July. 

The two have been charged with circulating wrong or non-verified news, conspiracy. Sections of the IT Act, which empower the police to search their phones and laptops, have been used.

Odisha

Ramesh Rath: On 15 October, Odisha Television (OTV) senior reporter Ramesh Rath was arrested. OTV is owned by BJP vice-president Baijayant Panda’s wife Jagi Mangat Panda.

The channel alleged that Rath was arrested after OTV telecast an expose on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s claims of an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas of the state, which was based on RTI revelations. The channel reported that Patnaik’s flying time was just 19 minutes.

According to reports, four to five persons, who identified themselves as police, forcibly picked up Rath and took him to an undisclosed location. He was later released and asked to report to a police station in Keonjhar district on 21 October. He didn’t do so citing health reasons.

Punjab

Jai Singh Chibber: On 22 May, a Punjabi Jagran reporter was booked by the state police for writing a report about an unnamed Congress minister, who was said to be following astrological advice. The police registered a case against the journalist, Jai Singh Chibber, for disobeying a public official and making statements which incite the commission of an offence, and obscenity.

Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Zubair Ahmed: Freelance journalist Zubair Ahmed was arrested by the police in Andaman and Nicobar on 27 April for posting a tweet that questioned why families were placed under home quarantine for merely speaking over the phone with Covid patients. 

Bihar

Pawan Chaudhary: On 6 April, web journalist Pawan Chaudhary was arrested in Munger in Bihar on the charges of spreading misinformation about the death of Covid patient.

Chhattisgarh

Neeraj Shivhare: In last week of April, a show cause notice was sent to Neeraj Shivhare, who works for website Bastar Ki Aawaz, for reporting on the plight of a woman who had to sell her household items to arrange food during the Covid lockdown, which the authorities said had “damaged the image of the administration”.

Gujarat

Dhaval Patel: On 11 May, the Gujarat Police arrested Dhaval Patel, editor of online Gujarati news portal Face of Nation, and booked him for sedition for allegedly publishing a speculative report on possible change in state leadership due to criticism over rising number of Covid cases. Patel had claimed that the BJP high command had chosen Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya to replace Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. The police said the story was “baseless and amounted to create instability and atmosphere of fear in the State amid pandemic”. 

Karnataka

K.N. Nagegowda, Sunil, H.S. Mahesh and Madan: Krishik Gowda, son of MLC K.T. Srikantegowda, had lodged a police complaint against these four reporters in Mandya, alleging that they abused his father and assaulted him at Ambedkar Bhavan during a Covid test camp for journalists. 

Telangana

Paramesh: In May, Telugu news channel V6 journalist Paramesh alleged that his under-construction home was demolished in retaliation for his reportage of an MLA’s violation of lockdown rules. Paramesh had reported that MLA Mahareddy Bhupal Reddy, celebrated his birthday with over 500 supporters.


Also read: US designates 6 more Chinese publications as foreign missions, imposes restrictions


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Okay I understand the fact that journalist booked for questioning the govt is wrong. But how can you victimize a journalist who has spread fake news or said anything against the interest of india. Why journalists are forgetting the ethos of journalism? A journalist who has links with maoists is a victim? How?

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