The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliate Indian Journalists Union (IJU) have condemned the Modi Government controlled Delhi Police and Uttar Pradesh Police for the tactics used to suppress media covering Farmers Protests and called them a ‘blatant misuse of power and law against media workers. IFJ on Monday denounced the misuse of power by the police for targeting media workers that resulted in the arrests of several journalists. About nine media workers have been arrested by police on criminal charges for reporting on and making posts on the internet about the farmers’ demonstrations in India since November 2020.
Both the IJF and IJU also urged the Modi Government to withdraw the cases against all nine reporters and ensure their safety amid a worsening track record of intimidating journalists in the country.
“Delhi police detained freelance journalist Mandeep Punia at a Singhu border protest site on January 30 on charges of trying to break barricades and fighting with police. He was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (including articles 186, 353, 332 and 34). The Police confiscated his camera and deleted all the records. Online News India journalist Dharmender Singh was arrested the same day from a farmers’ protest in Sindhu protest site and released on January 31, 2021. The contents of his camera were also deleted,” states the IFJ release.
“Seven other journalists have also been charged for reporting on the protests, including six charged with sedition for reporting or sharing news about the farmers protest, particularly related to the death of protester Navreet Singh on January 29. Singh’s family claims his death was caused by a police bullet, while the Delhi police claim he died as a result of a tractor accident. Journalists who reported or shared the news against the police claim were charged under various draconian laws.
“Police in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district registered a first information report (FIR) against The Wire‘s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan on January 31 accusing him of sharing inaccurate posts on Twitter about the incident and charging him under Sections 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Similarly, journalists have been charged with sedition for reporting or sharing allegedly unverified news during the farmers’ tractor rally in New Delhi. These include Rajdeep Sardesai, a prominent anchor on India Today, Mrinal Pande, of National Herald; Zafar Agha, of Qaumi Awaz; Paresh Nath, Anant Nath, and Vinod K. Jose of The Caravan. Most of the FIRs against the media allege the accused tried to provoke the protesters for their political and personal gain by spreading false and misleading information online,” adds the release.
“India has a worsening track record of intimidating journalists misusing the sedition and other draconian laws. The IJU has long been advocating against such the misuse of law,” said the president of the Indian Journalists Union (IJU), Geetartha Pathak.
In India, Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Club and Press Association have also spoken against the harassment of journalist covering the Farmers Protest which is dubbed as the largest protest in the world.
The Indian farmers have been protesting for over three months over three new laws that farmers fear will leave them vulnerable before potential abuse by private businesses.