Mirzapur: In what can be seen as an attempt to silence the fourth pillar of democracy, media, the Mirzapur police on Saturday (August 31) late night slapped criminal charges against the scribe who had exposed the mid-day meal scam in the region.
A video shot by the journalist Pawan Jaiswal had revealed how more than 100 students at a primary school in Siyur village of Mirzapur were being served salt with chapati instead of vegetables or dal (lentils).
The copy of the First Information Report (FIR) accessed by NewsClick reads, “A villager who is a representative of the headman called the journalist and conspired to get the video of the mid day meal shot despite knowing the fact that there were not enough material to meet the needs of the school. The responsibility to make the supplies available for the mid-day meal lies with the gram pradhan but he did not do his job and conspired with the journalist to defame the district.”
Also read: UP School Children Seen Eating Roti-Salt, Data Suggests Huge Scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme
The FIR has been registered against Jaiswal, who works with a local Hindi publication Jansandesh, and Raj Kumar Pal, the village head representative and another unknown under sections 120-B, 186, 193 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Soon after it was brought to his notice, district magistrate Anurag Patel had initiated an enquiry and suspended two people named Murari and Arvind Tripathi. Not only that, after the video went viral, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had also taken cognizance of the issue and ordered a probe. However, the FIR against the journalist was lodged by the police on the complaint of the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) office.
Reacting to the criminal charges slapped against him, Jaiswal said, “I did my duty. Every journalist has informers. I got the tip off from my informer and I did what was right. Now, they are trying to threaten me and silence my pen by lodging the FIR.”
“The police has not come to arrest me yet. I had called the concerned police station and told the Station House Office that I want to go in for my arrest but he asked me to wait. It is very sad that the DM, when he first saw the video, he ordered the enquiry. But after he found it to be true, he is coming after me,” the journalist added.
“I have also received information through my friends in media that the DM is unhappy with me because this expose has brought a lot of media attention to Mirzapur and not for a good reason,” he said.
Also read: UP: Journalists Locked up, No Right to Question CM?
Another Mirzapur-based journalist, who works as a stringer for a national Hindi channel, Suresh Mishra said, “This is a very condemnable step by the government. A journalist did his duty ethically but was slapped with the FIR which can not be justified in any way in any part of the world. The government should get this immediately withdrawn.”
The FIR against Pawan Jaiswal is a grim reminder of the increasing trend of muzzling the voice of journalists in the state by the Yogi Adityanath-led government. In an earlier incident, four journalists working with a news portal were arrested and booked under the UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act. The FIR claimed that their writings were trying to defame the Noida police and were attempting to blackmail certain officials. Prior to that, a scribe in Shamli was beaten up, put in lock up and forced to drink urine for revealing a nexus of vendors in the trains allegedly run by the Government Railway Police (GRP).
According to veteran scribe Raj Silvano, these kinds of steps by the government reminds him of the emergency. “You get a man arrested for a tweet. (I do not side with that man or his tweet.) Then you get journalists arrested and say that they were trying to defame and they were not journalists as they did not have accreditation by the government. The Press Council of India should immediately take cognizance of what is being done with the media persons in the state,” Silvano said.
He further added that the Mirzapur administration should first get this matter investigated, draw a conclusion and then take action. “Taking actions on the hearsay cannot be justified,” he said.
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