‘Muzzling Journalism’: DIGIPUB Condemns FIR Against Barkha Dutt

The Unnao police on Sunday had lodged an FIR against 8 Twitter handles and their users, including @themojostory.

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Four men were arrested by Delhi Police’s cyber crime cell for harassing journalist Barkha Dutt online.

In statement released on Monday, 22 February DIGIPUB News India Foundation expressed their condemnation of the FIR filed against journalist Barkha Dutt among others, saying that it was a clear and deliberate attempt by the state to muzzle journalism.

“The FIR that was registered under Section 153 of the IPC (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 66 of the Information and Technology Act, claimed that false information was spread by the named journalists. This is outright false,” the statement read.

The Unnao Police on Sunday had lodged an FIR against eight Twitter handles and their users, including @themojostory run by senior journalist Barkha Dutt in connection with the recovery of the bodies of two minor girls in Baburha village of Unnao district.

Unnao SP Anand Kulkarni also threatened further action.

The DIGIPUB statement also highlighted that, “The Mojo Story denied these claims and cleared their stand on the news saying that inputs were given by a local reporter followed by a report by a Delhi correspondent. To challenge the claims, they asked for a copy of FIR, which was refused by Unnao Police without which Mojo Story cannot appeal for a legal intervention.”

Further, the statement noted that Mojo Story was penalised for only reporting on what the families of the Dalit girls told their reporter: That despite the families’ insistence, the police was in favour of an early cremation.

Dutt’s Mojo Story also reported the police denial on this, and also exclaimed that the police clubbed them with politicians who had suggested falsely that the girls had been raped. However, the news platform has reported anything of the kind.

“This is not the first time such attempts have been made to stop journalists from reporting, but it has become a pattern, which needs to be addressed immediately by the government of Uttar Pradesh and the Center needs to take a note,” DIGIPUB wrote in their statement.

Highlighting that the UP Police had also arrested Siddiqui Kappan for reporting on Hathras gangrape under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, it added, “This is no way for a responsible and a mature democracy to function. Intimidating the press using enforcement agencies and lodging FIRs, often in ways that push the boundaries of legality needs to stop.”

The statement said in conclusion, “The news media that DigiPub represents will not be intimidated and prevented from reporting the truth, however inconvenient it may be for anyone,” stressing that DIGIPUB takes accountability as the fourth pillar of democracy very seriously.

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