Skip to main content

UP FIR against Varadarajan 'false', is meant to muzzle, threaten press freedom

Counterview Desk
The Press Club of India, in a letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, has said that the FIR against “The Wire” founder-editor Siddharth Varadarajan for publishing a news item on March 25, on how he allegedly violated the lockdown regime at Ayodhya, is intended to “muzzle” and “threaten” freedom of expression, even as maligning a top journalist.
The letter asks Adityanath, in the national interest, to be “open to questioning under Section 188 IPC for violating the order of national lockdown issued by none other than the Prime Minister under Section 188 (defiance of government order).”
Signed by by Anand K Sahay, Press Club president, and Anant Bagaitkar, secretary-general, the letter, copies of which have been sent to the Prime Minister and the Union home minister, calls the charges against Varadarajan “false”, adding they “push the limits of absurdly and appear to be motivated.”

Text:

The Press Club of India views with rising concern actions of the UP government and UP Police that are evidently directed at muzzling the media from doing its work. This takes away one of the key definitions of democracy.
Most recently the twin intentions to muzzle and to threaten become apparent from the evidently malign action taken against the founder-editor of “The Wire”, the well-respected senior journalist Siddharth Vardarajan.
“The Wire”, a leading web-based news and current affairs portal, published a story detailing how you personally, on March 25 at Ayodhya, were in violation of disobeying and coolly disregarding the Prime Minister's nationwide directive -- conveyed on March 24 evening through an address to the nation -- to lock down with a view to urgently combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
The news report in “The Wire” was a purely factual account of the event in Ayodhya on March 25, although it misattributed a quote to you and was immediately corrected. In any case, that particular quotation in no way attempted to detract from your dignity- either personally or as CM.
Ordinarily the matter should have rested there. After all, “The Wire” reported facts that had been widely reported on television and in the newspapers.
“The Wire” story clears the touchstone of public interest being served, which in important judicial pronouncements has been seen as the cornerstone of locating legitimacy in media reporting and disseminating opinion.
The action of UP Police has been in flagrant disregard of this precept. We think it is unlikely this would have been the case without encouragement from your administration.
Adityanath should be open to questioning under Section 188 IPC for violating order of national lockdown issued by Prime Minister
On April 10, a posse of UP Police descended on Vardarajan's residence in New Delhi to serve orders on him to report in person in Ayodhya, 700 km away, on April 14 when the PM-ordered lockdown was still in place.
Evidently, this order proceeds from FIRs lodged against Vardarajan a few days prior, citing six sections of criminal law, including a lot of mumbo-jumbo about provoking public unrest, inciting communities, and showing disrespect to the chief minister.
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath in Ayodhya on March 25
These false charges push the limits of absurdly and appear to be motivated. They do not flow from the report in question. The wider effect -- perhaps intended -- they have is to inhibit other media from questioning the actions of your administration and police for fear of similar retaliation. In other words, chief minister, this affair is reprehensible.
It is clear as chief minister, you have taken no lessons from the judicial rebuke your government earned not long ago in the case of a young UP journalist who was harassed in multiple ways and arrested for reporting in the public interest an incident that would have been a matter of shame for any government.
We demand that all attempts by your police and government to impede fair news reporting must cease forthwith and the patently bogus cases against Vardarajan be withdrawn without delay. That will help restore public faith in your administration.
As the principal public representative from India's largest state, and as holder of the highest elected office in UP, you may in the national interest also lay yourself open to questioning under Section 188 IPC for violating the order of national lockdown issued by none other than the Prime Minister.
We urge the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to direct all arms of authority at the Centre and in the states to not treat media freedoms lightly. They have been the first to suggest that the role of an independent media is essential to fighting the pandemic that is currently posing a challenge to the country. The country needs refreshing leadership initiatives, not boorish vindictiveness, that bolster the democratic ethos, particularly in a time of national crisis.

Comments

TRENDING

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

How green revolution led to 'deterioration' of Punjab economy, land, air and water

By Dr Gian Singh*  A recent research paper, based on a survey of 320 farming families in four districts of Punjab, has tried to show that high crop densities and the use of inputs have led to degradation of land, air, water and humans through a rich agricultural structure. Although mechanization has increased agricultural productivity, it has also caused environmental degradation.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.

Abysmal deficit of water, food waste recycle treatment 'impacting' Chennai life

By Simi Mehta*  We are living in a state where the most basic needs like food and water are not assured to the people residing in the urban areas, which account for the biggest sources of food and water wastage. Socio-economic inequality in society which is pervasive in urban areas is one of the main reasons for this.