IJU condemns FIR against Haryana journalist

NEW DELHI, 11 Apr: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned the Hisar police in Haryana for lodging an FIR against a journalist, Rajesh Kundu, on charges of “cyber terrorism” and “promoting communal disharmony” for his alleged posts over social media platforms.

“The action is an impingement on his right to freedom of speech and expression as well as an ongoing bid by governments to intimidate and harass the media,” said the IJU.

Kundu, who runs a news portal and works for a TV channel in the district and has been covering the farmers’ agitation, was booked on Friday over a Facebook post which was shared on WhatsApp. The FIR against Kundu was lodged under Sections 153 A (promoting communal disharmony) and 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the  IPC and Section 66 F (cyber terrorism) of the IT Act, 2000.

A complaint against Kundu was made by a police spokesperson, Vikram, in Hisar, wherein he accused Kundu of preparing “a script for caste-related violence” and alleged that he had worked to “incite common men” while apprehending “adverse impact of post on national integrity.”

Kundu has rubbished the accusation, saying he only “performed my duty of a responsible citizen and journalist by sharing a post regarding my apprehension of violence on the occasion of BR Amdekar Jayanti on 14 April on the basis of information received through sources….”

In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general Sabina Inderjit demanded that the case be withdrawn immediately as the FIR was merely to harass the journalist and stifle his freedom of expression. Worse, the IJU leadership said the BJP-ruled Haryana government was indulging in intimidation and harassment of media covering the farmers’ stir and using social media posts as a mere tool.

The IJU also cautioned the Centre and the state governments from filing FIRs against journalists for their posts on social media as the sinister trend is rising menacingly, which gravely impacts the citizens’ right to information as well as India’s claim to being a vibrant democracy. “Counter the posts instead, rather than yield the stick,” advised the IJU.