The Delhi Union of Journalists has released a statement on June 18 condemning the repeated targetting of media persons by multiple authorities. Terming it as a “pincer attack from all sides”, the union have highlighted several incidences where media persons have come under attack.
At the foremost, the union denounced the sacking of a large number of employees by The Hindu group, which cited financial difficulties as the reason behind this move. This move, according to DUJ, follows the same pattern of lay offs that took place in media groups during the first COVID-19 induced lockdown in 2020.
As such, several media persons are yet to find any alternative employment and income, while others are struggling with freelancing work.
While sackings and pay cuts have been caused by the pandemic, there is also an increasing threat to the lives of journalists who dare to report the truth, according to the DUJ. For instance, ABP News journalist Sulabh Shrivastav was murdered on June 13 in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh, allegedly by the liquor mafia days after he had reported on the issue.
Despite raising complaint with the Prayagraj Police and requesting for security, the murdered journalist did not get any protection from them. The next day, he was brutally killed.
The DUJ has urged the concerned authorities to take the issue up with utmost priority and to pursue the matter to ensure punishment for the murderers. Further, it has also requested the ABP News management to provide his family with adequate compensation.
The statement added that the government should take more responsibility to make sure that media persons are provided adequate security so as to enable them to report the truth without any fear of life. Not only that, the DUJ has also demanded more transparency in the role of news managements in cases like this.
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The journalists’ union has expressed shock that the Ghaziabad Police has filed FIRs against select journalists and politicians for “tweets about the attack on an elderly Muslim man”. Among those targetted include prominent journalists Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub and Mohd. Zubair.
In another incident, a case has been filed in a Delhi court against journalist Neha Dixit under Section 156 (3) of CrPC for a tweet in which she had raised allegations of child trafficking against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), it stated.
Therefore, the statement noted, there is a “growing climate of intolerance in which tweets, Facebook posts and reports by media persons are leading to the filing of arbitrary charges against them”.
The Wire, Twitter Inc and Twitter Communications India Pvt. have also been named for allegedly provoking riots and enmity between different groups and slapped with IPC Sections 153, 153A, 295A, 505, 120B and 34, the statement added.
While another journalist, Siddique Kappan, has been in jail since October last year after being arrested when he was on his to Hathras in UP to investigate a rape case. Even though limited relief was provided to the journalist on June 15, 2021, by a Mathura court that dropped bailable charges of breach of peace against him and three others arrested along with him, he has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, due to which he is still languishing in jail. Moreover, the statement, Kappan had also reportedly contracted COVID-19 inside jail, from which he has recovered now.
As per latest reports, Kappan’s mother passed away on June 18, without bidding a last farewell to her son.
Furthermore, highlighting that journalists have been caught in the crossfire in the dispute between Twitter and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the DUJ noted it as a very unfortunate incident.
The union has demanded the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all these charges against media persons and the release of all those who have been arrested under such trumped up charges.