FIR on Barkha's news portal for Unnao coverage, Mojo Story calls it intimidation

Unnao police said that the eight Twitter users had shared ‘false, provocative information’ that the deceased girls had been raped and their last rites were rushed by police.
Journalist Barkha Dutt
Journalist Barkha Dutt
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The Unnao police have lodged an FIR against several Twitter users, including Mojo Story, a digital news platform led by journalist Barkha Dutt, in relation to the case of alleged poisoning of three teenage Dalit girls in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. In Mojo's case, the police claimed that they had not rushed to perform the last rites of the two deceased girls in spite of objections from the girls’ families, as it had been reported by the portal based on the family's version. This is not the first time that UP police has filed cases against journalists reporting on stories.

Unnao police have registered a case against other Twitter users, on charges of spreading false information that could incite violence, a statement from the Unnao police said. Police said that the Twitter users had spread “false information” that the girls had been raped. Unnao police have stated that the post mortem report of the two deceased girls did not show that they had been raped.Unnao police have stated that the post mortem report of the two deceased girls did not show that they had been raped.

Police have reportedly registered a case under under section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and section 66 of the Information Technology Act against eight Twitter accounts — @NilimDutta (Nilim Dutta), @themojostory (Mojo Story), @janjagranlive (Jan Jagran Live), @SurajKrBauddh (Suraj Kumar Bauddh), @VijayAmbedkarUP (Vijay Ambedkar),  @Abhaykumarazad97 (Abhay Kumar Azad), @Rahuldiwkr (Rahul Kumar Diwakar) and @BhimSenaChief (Nawab Satpal Tanwar) — according to The Hindu.

Responding to the FIR, Mojo Story has called it “a blatant case of harassment and intimidation.” Mojo Story in a statement said that the police denial on attempting to rush the cremation was reported by them prominently, and that they had also removed a tweet after the police statement was issued. However, the statement insists that reporters on ground were told by the girl’s families that there were indeed failed attempts by the police to perform the last rites in a hurry. 

In a video shared by Mojo Story, a relative of the deceased girls, told the portal, “The police brought JCB (earthmovers) and told us to bury the bodies before they decompose. We said we wanted to wait till the next morning, so our relatives could come and pay their last respects … When we didn’t allow them, they went back.” The relative added that the last rites were performed the next morning. 

“We have reported all dimensions of the tragedy, the family's anxieties and allegations as well as the police response at every step. And if this case is pursued, we will confidently defend our journalistic rights and freedom in court,” the statement said. 

Three minor Dalit girls were found in an unconscious state in Unnao's Baburaha village on Wednesday night. Two of them were declared brought dead at the district hospital, while the third was referred to a private hospital in Kanpur in a critical condition. The girls, who were related to each other, were found in a field by the villagers when they did not return after leaving their house to take fodder for cattle.

On Thursday, police registered a case of murder, though the post-mortem revealed no injury marks on the two deceased girls. "The cause of death could not be ascertained and viscera has been preserved for chemical analysis," police said. The hospital treating the third girl noted that it was a suspected case of poisoning, according to the police. 

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