A group of over 200 journalists has condemned the FIR filed against founding editor of news portal The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan by the Uttar Pradesh police.
The group consisting of journalists from both print and electronic media termed it a brazen attempt to muzzle the media.
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The police had accused The Wire of spreading panic with a report claiming that the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath attended a religious event on March 25 in Ayodhya on the occasion of Ram Navmi, when a national lockdown was in force.
The Wire has held that his presence was a matter of public record and knowledge. A sentence in an article in the portal had wrongly attributed a statement made by Acharya Paramhans to the Chief Minister, which was retracted and a corrigendum issued.
On April 10, a police team descended at Mr. Varadarajan's residence to serve him a notice for appearance on April 14. “The manner in which the U.P. government and its police have been pursuing this with a single-minded agenda smacks of vindictiveness,” the group said in a statement.
Siddharth Varadarajan questions U.P. Police
Mr. Varadarajan, in a statement e-mailed to the police that he also tweeted, asked for a copy of the FIR and details of the specific ‘ACTS’ that he is accused of. He demanded the police to explain as to how did the story violate the five specific laws that he has been accused of: disobedience of any order of a public servant under Section 188 of the IPC; a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude leading to panic as per Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act; creation or promotion of enmity, hatred or ill will between classes under Section 505(2) of the IPC; transmission of obscene material under Section 67 of the IT Act and cheat by impersonation using computer source under Section 66 D of the IT Act.
The State has an extra responsibility to exercise restraint on use of its powers when citizens are restricted in exercising many of their usual democratic rights. “We demand that such politically motivated harassment of media persons should stop immediately,” the statement said.
The statement was endorsed by N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu Group of Publications; Sonia Singh, Editorial Director, NDTV; R. Vijaya Sankar, Editor, Frontline; Rajdeep Sardesai, Consulting Editor, India Today Group; Om Thanvi, former editor, Jansatta; and veteran and senior journalists like Prem Shankar Jha, Harish Khare, John Dayal, Neerja Chowdhry, Sagarika Ghose and Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.