IJU condemns UP govt’s action against The Wire

NEW DELHI, Apr 13: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has strongly condemned the Uttar Pradesh government’s brazen attempt to gag criticism and independent media by filing criminal charges against The Wire and one of its founding editors and senior journalist Siddharth Varadrajan.
Two FIRs were filed against Siddharth and The Wire on 1 April. The IJU termed the action “a sinister threat from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s media advisor Mrityunjay Kumar.”
“The UP police served a hand-delivered notice all the way from UP to the editor to appear before the Ayodhya authorities on 14 April, at a time when Prime Minister Modi’s nationwide lockdown is underway,” it said.
The criminal charges “smack of vindictiveness and amount to a direct attack on press freedom, threat to freedom of speech and expression as well as a clear violation of the citizens’ right to access to information,” the IJU said.
In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general Sabina Inderjit said, “The UP government’s actions were unwarranted as what was reported in The Wire was factual and far from being fake news as alleged. Plus, Siddharth did issue a clarification to a quote wrongly attributed to Yogi as per journalistic norms in consonance with guidelines issued by the Press Council of India and should have sufficed.”
The IJU said “Yogi’s malafide intent to stifle all criticism is writ large, as though the FIRs are filed by ‘individuals’, these followed soon after his media advisor’s threat in a tweet on 1 April: ‘He (Siddharth) was asked to remove the tweet and apologize and he didn’t. Action has been taken and FIR lodged. If you too are thinking of spreading lies against the Yogi government, kindly remove such thoughts.’ And another one which read: ‘Another FIR has been filed against Varadrajan for spreading lies against CM Yogi. Hope he has donation to fight two cases!'”
The IJU said the media advisor’s words must be marked and not be viewed alone as one against The Wire but the entire media fraternity, which is carrying out its due responsibility of informing the public in these unprecedented times of the pandemic, putting their health at risk.
“The FIRs registered by the police and the summons physically issued by plainclothes men, who had driven 700 kms in a black SUV with no number plate to Siddharth’s residence on 10 April, is an abuse of power to intimidate the press,” the IJU said, and demanded these be withdrawn forthwith.
Expressing solidarity with The Wire and its team, the IJU also urged the prime minister to and the Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar to step in and ensure that the UP government does not make a mockery of their gratitude towards the media for acting as a link between the government and the people during these difficult times.