IJU condemns attacks on free speech

NEW DELHI, Jun 9: Expressing profound concern over the continuing harassment of journalists through filing of FIRs, “be it (against) senior anchor Vinod Dua or Fatehpur’s (UP) Vivek Mishra and Ajay Bhadauria,” the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned the police actions as “an attack on free speech and expression and an obvious intimidation of media.”
All three have been booked recently under the now familiar sections of the IPC over alleged ‘fake news’.
In Delhi, Dua is said to have learnt about the five-page FIR by state BJP spokesperson Naveen Kumar against him on Twitter. It was filed on 4 June for “misreporting Delhi riots” and blaming Prime Minister Modi, “false contextual reporting” about Jyotiraditya Scindia’s joining the BJP, etc, on his popular shows ‘The Vinod Dua Show’ and ‘Vinod Dua Live’ on HW News on YouTube and Swaraj Express TV, respectively.
The complaint accused Dua of committing “offence of public nuisance, mischief, printing and engraving matters known to be defamatory, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace…”
In UP, it’s reported that a dozen-odd journalists in Fatehpur observed ‘jal satyagrah’ by standing waist deep in the Ganga on 7 June with placards, protesting against filing of FIRs against Bhadauria and Mishra by the local administration and demanding removal of the district magistrate.
Mishra, who is with the Dainik Bhaskar group, was booked after he wrote about bovines in a gaushala not getting food and falling prey to wild dogs. Bhadauria was charged for tweeting about a community kitchen closing down in Vijaypur and a blind couple going hungry.
The DM’s office retaliated, saying Bhadauria “is not associated with any print or electronic media in the year 2020. He has constantly used his personal Twitter account to defame the administration by tweeting one-sided rumours,” following inquiry by the district information officer.
In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and general secretary Sabina Inderjit said that the cases, like in the past, smack of intolerance, and that the police’s registering FIRs is simply to harass and intimidate journalists from reporting the situation.
“These FIRs must be quashed,” said the IJU leadership, “and the police and administration must not be allowed to deny citizens right to information.”