'Shooting The Messenger': Why Two UP Journos Were Booked For Post on 'Lynching'

Two FIRs have been filed against Muslim journalists and a YouTube channel called 'Hindustani Media.'

5 min read

Five Muslims, including two journalists, have been booked under the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita for alleging a mob lynching in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli.

This incident in question was the murder of one Firoz Qureshi on 4 July. He had gone to the Jalalabad area of Ganga Aryanagar for buying and selling waste, and was allegedly beaten by a group comprising Pinky, Pankaj Rajendra, and their associates. These are the details mentioned by Qureshi's family in their complaint.

Journalist Zakir Ali Tyagi claimed in a social media post that Qureshi's killing was a mob lynching. Tyagi has now been booked along with Wasim Akram Tyagi, Asif Rana, Ahmed Raza Khan and Saif Allahabadi. Three of the others had merely shared Zakir Tyagi's post.

Meanwhile, on 7 July, Shamli police filed another FIR against a Bihar-based YouTube news channel named 'Hindustani Media' for talking about the mob lynching allegations in Firoz Qureshi's death.

The Quint has accessed copies of the FIRs filed against them, the FIR and the original complaint filed by Firoz's family in Shamli.


'New Criminal Laws Being Misused Against Us'

"All I did was share what was already claimed by the victim's family. Then why are we being booked when so many called it a lynching?" asked an enraged Zakir who calls the action akin to 'shooting the messenger.'

This is not the first time. If you are a Muslim, it's easier to target you and your journalism. Qatl ho jaye aur qatl par awaaz bhi na uthaaye? (A murder has taken place and we can't even talk about it?)
Zakir Ali Tyagi to The Quint

On the other hand, his cousin, Wasim Akram Tyagi, a DIP-accredited journalist who has worked for around 15 years, said he was "shocked" to know about the FIR.

He stated in many mob lynching cases that there are videos of lynchings wherein the victim is killed by a two-three people while the crowd watches.

There's a new pattern, when Akhlaq was killed (in 2015), an FIR was filed against him. Even in Aligarh's lynching, a case of theft was filed against him later. First, the lynching will happen. Then his character will be lynched to add theft or drug allegations. Then Hindutva groups will get that case registered. So people's conscience is satiated that the killing will be justified.
Wasim Akram Tyagi to The Quint

Here's the catch. The new criminal laws have restructured the old sections. The FIR filed by the victim's family pertains section 105 (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

The FIR filed against Zakir and Wasim pertains to sections 196 (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc) and 353 (statements conducing to public mischief).

Wasim had demanded that section 105 is changed with section 103 which is punishment for murder. Under section 103 (2) mob lynching is defined, albeit without mentioning the word lynching itself.

The new law defines lynching as when a "group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder" while in Firoz' case, the family has mentioned two names and others. Hence, the journalists believe that the police is playing around the technical definitions.

The FIR filed against YouTube channel Hindustani media also includes similar sections like 353 (2) which is circulating any report containing false information, rumour or alarming news, including through electronic means to promote enmity.

  • Original posts by Wasim on X (Formerly Twitter).

    (Photo: X/Twitter)

How the Police & Family's Accounts Differ

Speaking to The Quint, Jitendra Sharma, Investigating Officer in the cases, said that the real reason why these FIRs were filed can only be known through the original complainant. In this case: Manendra Kumar.

The journalists don't know Kumar and allege that he may be a police official himself, they said.

Sharma told The Quint that "it would have been called lynching if there were injuries to ascertain or justify it. Doesn't matter what the families say, it is determined by the post-mortem report, from what I know the report says there are no such injuries." But he has not received the post-mortem report as yet.

Adding that the police has nothing to do with any political dispensation and are investigating in the matter.

However, when The Quint spoke to Firoz' elder brother, Mohd Afzal and his nephew Mohd Kaif, they challenged the police's claims.

Both of them stated that there were evident marks and wounds on Firoz' body and the locals are also aware of the incident.

The accused locked Firoz in a room and brutally beat him. He was then taken outside as they continued to beat him. He had injuries on his stomach and back. His nose was also bleeding. How can the police deny this?
Mohd Afzal to The Quint

Meanwhile, Firoz' nephew asked, "How can the police claim that there were no injuries when they haven't received the report themselves?"

The victim's family said that the newly-elected Kairana MP Iqra Choudhary had also visited the family and demanded the police to expedite their investigation and to provide the post-mortem report.

Firoz now leaves behind a bereaved wife and three children.

"They are so quick to take action against journalists and the media, but why aren't they quick in taking action against the accused in the main case?" asked the nephew.

Wasim and Zakir stated that the FIRs against them will not deter them from doing their job of highlighting the plight of victims and other accounts.

Talking about the new criminal laws, Wasim said they will be further used against journalists.

"This is not just a matter of press freedom but also of human rights. Will journalists will not be able to raise voices for those being lynched? How will these cases be tracked and be done away with?"

Meanwhile, Asaduddin Owaisi of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) wrote, "This is why I had opposed the new criminal laws in Lok Sabha. They are meant to be 'misused' against those who speak the truth."

Disagreeing with the police's move, senior advocate Indira Jaising said that it goes the right to freedom of speech and expression.

"It's a clear violation of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. What is the point of swearing by the a constitution and then misusing the new criminal laws?"

The Press Club of India and the DIGIPUB News India Foundation have also posted statements in support of the journalists that the FIRs are a "grave overreach and misuse of criminal laws that has a chilling effect."

Two FIRs have been filed against Muslim journalists and a YouTube channel called 'Hindustani Media.'

Statement by Press Club of India.

(Photo: X/Twitter)

Two FIRs have been filed against Muslim journalists and a YouTube channel called 'Hindustani Media.'

Statement by DIGIPUB News India Foundation.

(Photo: X/Twitter)

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