Deoria: A case has been registered against a journalist for allegedly indulging in the “despicable work” of maligning the image of the Uttar Pradesh government. The journalist in question recorded a video of a minor girl cleaning the floor in the female ward of the district hospital in Deoria.
According to reports, the girl’s mother was admitted to the same ward. She urinated in the gallery as a result of being sick and angry employees picked on the girl to clean the floor. A local journalist shot the video on his mobile phone and shared it on social networking sites.
Journalist Amitabh Rawat has been booked under Sections 506 (criminal intimidation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 389 (Putting person in fear of accusation of offence, in order to commit extortion) 385 (Putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, according to the First Information Report (FIR) filed in the case.
The FIR was lodged on Thursday at Kotwali police station after Shatrughan Yadav, the contractor of cleaning services at the hospital, registered a complaint. According to the complaint, Rawat conspired with the family and orchestrated the sequence of events for a video which does the “despicable work” of maligning the image of the state government and the district hospital.
A copy of the FIR, accessed by NewsClick, said that journalists who were already present made a video by provoking the girl and forcing her to wipe the floor. The complainant alleged that the journalist demanded Rs 5,000 in exchange for not releasing the video. The complainant also accused the journalist of abusing him.
Denying the allegation made by the contractor, Rawat said: “The allegation made by the hospital authorities is completely baseless – it was spontaneous. On July 25, a small girl was cleaning the gallery with a wiper in the district hospital, Deoria. I captured the incident and returned to my place and filed a report. The story went viral soon after, and an FIR was registered against me," Rawat told NewsClick.
“I did my job with honesty. Every journalist has informers. I got a tip-off and I did what was right. Now they are trying to threaten me and silence me by lodging an FIR," the scribe said, adding that the district administration was unhappy since the video brought media attention to Deoria for all the wrong reasons.
Journalists in Uttar Pradesh have taken umbrage to the FIR while the Congress party alleged that the journalist was targetted as he exposed corruption during the BJP-led government's tenure in the state. A group of journalists demonstrated outside the collectorate office against the district administration, which had registered an FIR against Rawat. “Instead of conducting an inquiry on the appalling conditions inside the hospital and the role of the contractor responsible for cleanliness in the hospital, this government is targetting those who are raising their voice against corruption," a journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
This is the second incident in a week which has resulted in the Deoria district hospital coming under the scanner. Last week, the video of a six-year-old boy and his mother pushing a stretcher to take the former’s ailing grandfather from one ward to another, garnered attention.
The Deoria District Magistrate visited the hospital and ordered a probe into the episode.
Second FIR Against a UP Journalist in a Week
The FIR against Rawat is a grim reminder of the increasing trend of muzzling the voices of journalists in the state by the BJP government. In an earlier incident, a journalist was booked in Saharanpur on Tuesday for merely posting a screenshot of a Twitter post on a social media group. The post said there was corruption in a hospital handling COVID-19 cases.
Sankalp Neb shared a screenshot on a WhatsApp group, and said he suspected the involvement of the district's chief medical officer (CMO) in the “scam”.
He was booked under sections of Epidemic Diseases Act and the IT Act by the police after a complaint was filed by Saharanpur CMO B.S. Sodhi.
According to veteran scribe Amitesh Rai, FIRs against journalists in petty matters reminds him of the Emergency. “I am surprised to see frequent attacks on journalists and their harassment by authorities in UP. Booking journalists for their critical reporting is nothing but a violation of media freedom. Registering an FIR against journalists in UP for their critical reports has become a weapon of harassment against journalists,” Rai said.
He said that the Press Council of India should immediately take cognisance of the condition of media persons in the state.