Lucknow: Journalists, wearing handcuffs, in several districts, such as Hardoi, Unnao and Lucknow staged a demonstration on Saturday to condemn the income tax department raids for alleged tax evasion on media entities Dainik Bhaskar and Uttar Pradesh-based independent news channel, Bharat Samachar.
Journalists from different media houses, carrying placards, took part in a sit-in demonstration that lasted nearly three hours. They raised issue about government’s “high-handedness in harassing them and subsequently preventing them from doing their jobs”.
Terming the use of central agencies for raids as an “unsavoury attack” on the media houses in a bid to “intimidate and silence” critical journalism, journalists unions pointed out that both Dainiks Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar media houses had closely covered government “mismanagement” of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic — and had done a series of stories on deaths due to COVID-19 and bodies being dumped along the Ganga. Bharat Samachar had highlighted the Yogi Adityanath-led government’s “poor handling” of the coronavirus crisis in the state.
Demanding a halt to the “witch-hunt of media houses and freelance journalists”, a body of editors and working journalists under the banner of Hardoi Press Club also met the district magistrate, seeking his intervention, and handed over a memorandum addressed to the Governor Anandiben Patel in this regard. They also mentioned in the memorandum that they “won’t tolerate any kind of pressure by the government in future.”
“It has become a new normal in Uttar Pradesh to intimidate or detain journalists ever since the BJP government came to power. There should not be any kind of pressure on media houses for reporting the truth. The ruling government wants to control media houses, including Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar, who were showing a mirror to the government and exposing their mismanagement, which most of the media outlets have forgotten in the current regime,” Harishyam Vajpayee, editor of The Telecast, a monthly Hindi magazine publish from Hardoi, told NewsClick.
Vajpayee said: “Journalists or freelancers across the state have been targeted in the past three years. Most of the cases, FIRs were registered in this government. One can imagine the plight of local journalists working in rural areas, Before writing a story, he/she has to think twice about getting arrested or FIRs registered against them on a complaint by local leaders, MLAs.”
Scores of local journalists in Unnao district too gathered in support of Bharat Samachar and held a sit-in demonstration against the government for its ”witch-hunt”. They raised slogans against the administration and demanded that the government withdraw the cases filed against journalists in previous years.
One of protesting journalists told NewsClick that that Brajesh Mishra’s (editor, Bharat Samachar) tough questions on alleged mismanagement during COVID-19 second wave, had made the Uttar Pradesh government uncomfortable. The journalists termed the raids as “hypocrisy and vindictive politics” of the government.
On July 22, IT officials raided premises of the Dainik Bhaskar, one of the country’s leading newspapers across five states including Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The homes of its editors and group’s promoters were also been searched. The homes of Bharat Samachar’s editor Brajesh Mishra and offices of its promoters in Lucknow were raided for nearly 70 hours.
Commenting over the continuous raids on media houses and “witch-hunt” by both Centre and State government, a member of Uttar Pradesh Journalists’ Association said: “The raids on media houses started with NewsClick office in Delhi and its editors for extensively coverage ongoing farmers’ protest and giving voice to vulnerable sections. Now, they came for Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar. Anyone can understand what sort of reports they do not like unlike in paid mainstream media. Therefore, these outifts are paying the price for showing truth and reality. Who is next, nobody knows”, he said, adding that they are united and will hold more protests across the state in coming weeks.