“The news media that DigiPub represents will not be intimidated and prevented from reporting the truth, however inconvenient it may be for anyone,” DigiPub has said.

Barkha Dutt smiling with her chin on her hand Barkha Dutt/Facebook
news Media Monday, February 22, 2021 - 16:03

DigiPub, a collective of digital media organisations, has strongly condemned the FIR filed against journalist Barkha Dutt amongst others for their coverage of the alleged poisoning for three Dalit teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao.

The UP Police had claimed that Barkha Dutt’s Mojo Story had wrongly reported that the police had rushed to perform the last rites of the two deceased girls despite objections from the girls’ families. However, Mojo Story has denied this allegation. Calling it “a blatant case of harassment and intimidation,” Mojo Story maintained that their report was based on the girls’ families’ statements. The Unnao Police had also filed a case against some Twitter users for allegedly spreading “false information” that the girls had also been raped. According to the police, the post mortem did not show sexual assault.

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. Responding to this, DigiPub has said that this is “outright false.” Read the full statement below:

“What is most outrageous is that the FIR by Unnao police is a clear and deliberate attempt at muzzling journalists and keeping them from doing their jobs. Not only this, Unnao SP Anand Kulkarni also threatened further action. Mojo Story in their tweet, 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.

Mojo Story has been penalised for reporting what the families of the dalit girls told their reporter, that the police had been in favour of an early cremation but the families insisted otherwise. The police denial on this was also reported. The platform has also called out the police for clubbing them with politicians who had suggested falsely that the girls had been raped. The news platform has said it has not 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. In this case, the sections used by the UP police allow for jail upto a year. Recently, UP police arrested Siddiqui Kappan for reporting on Hathras gangrape under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. 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 news media that DigiPub represents will not be intimidated and prevented from reporting the truth, however inconvenient it may be for anyone. We take our accountability as the fourth pillar of democracy very seriously and conduct ourselves in the most responsible fashion. We hope the governments around the country and in this case especially Uttar Pradesh, can do the same.

DigiPub stands by the journalists named in the FIR and intend to challenge this bullying without compromise.”

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