The Uttar Pradesh police booked five journalists in Bijnor on Friday for circulating fake news reports. In an FIR filed by the Bijnor police, two journalists, one working with a local daily and another engaged with an electronic news channel, have been named, along with three unidentified reporters.
The FIR said that Ashish Tomar and Shakil Ahmed tried to vitiate social amity by circulating fake news about a Valmiki family from Titarwala Basi village under Mandwar police station putting ‘house on sale’ on their house after not being allowed to collect water from the village hand pump by an influential Dalit family from the same village.
The police said the issue had been resolved by the police and the village ‘pradhan’ and alleged that it was one of the journalists who had put the ‘exodus’ threat on the wall to present the local administration in a bad light. The FIR quotes Lokesh Devi, wife of Gopal Valmiki, that the journalists asked her to put the house on sale on the wall. When she said she was illiterate one of them wrote it on the wall with a wooden stick and coal powder. However, the news report mentions Premchand Valmiki as the head of the family.
The journalists have been booked under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity), 268 (nuisance) and 503 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Section 66 A of the IT Act.
The journalists stand by their story and on Saturday several local mediapersons held a meeting against the police action alleging that the journalists were being targeted for factual reporting. “The said journalists have recorded versions of the person quoted in the story and the police applied pressure on the Valmiki family to create a false case. Late night, senior district officials promised us to drop the charges,” said a senior journalist with a local paper on condition of anonymity.
On being pointed out that the name that appears in the news report and the FIR did not match, Bijnor SP Sanjeev Tyagi told The Hindu that the house on which the statement was written belonged to Lokesh Devi. She had given us a complaint which we have added to the FIR.”
He admitted that there was a clash between two groups over collection of water from the hand pump after another hand pump stopped working, and some people were booked. “A team of circle officer and sub-divisional magistrate inspected the area and resolved the issue. The news of ‘exodus’ and ‘house on sale’ was fabricated.”
Mr. Tyagi added that the investigation was on. “The local mediapersons met us and we apprised them of the facts of the case.”