MP Journalist Faces 11 FIRs After Reportage Alluding to BJP Minister
Representational image. (File Image)
New Delhi: A journalist in Madhya Pradesh has been slapped with 11 FIRs after writing a report alluding to a minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government. Ahead of Vidhan Sabha elections, scheduled on November 17, in Madhya Pradesh, the arrest of the journalist yet again draws focus on the state of press freedom in the country.
On September 7, Jalam Singh Kirar, a reporter from Dainik Khulasa, reported on a controversial video that had surfaced purportedly showing Mahendra Singh Sisodia, the state minister of panchayat and rural development, with a woman. In the report, talking about the video that went viral in Guna, Singh did not take the name of Sisodia. Instead he wrote that an unknown politician seen may lose his election ticket because of the video and the report was sourced based.
However, soon 11 FIRs followed the journalist, who is also a resident of Guna.
In September, the Dainik Bhaskar reported that two FIRs were filed against Singh on charges of blackmailing. The complaint was filed by a member of the BJP Mahila Morcha in Kotwali and a rural employment assistant in Fatehgarh police station. It alleged that Singh had maligned Sisodia’s image by spreading rumours and accused him of blackmail. The FIR was registered under sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 384 and 385 (extortion), and 469 (forgery) of the Indian Penal Code.
On September 13, Singh was arrested from Kota, where he was visiting. The nearly dozen FIRs were filed in both Guna and Shivpuri districts, according to his family members quoted by the Newslaundry.
After accessing eight of the 11 FIRs, Newslaundry reported that most of the complaints were filed by people associated with the ruling BJP.
Suresh Acharya, the editor of Dainik Khulasa, reiterated to Newslaundry that Singh did not name anyone in his report. He claimed that the minister had the multiple complaints registered by others and took this action by pressurising the administration.
“All the FIRs have been filed without any investigation. No matter, the court will ask for evidence,” Acharyaa said.
Sisodia is one of the 22 Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP along with Jyotiraditya Scindia. He won the by-elections in 2020 and was appointed as the panchayat and rural development Cabinet minister.
Meanwhile, Advocate Manohar Mirota representing the journalist told The Wire that they had applied for anticipatory bail for Singh which was rejected.
He further said that they were getting information that at least 21 FIRs across Madhya Pradesh and one in Chattisgarh have been registered against Singh. So far, Mirota has succeeded in securing bail for the journalist in two FIRs.
Guna Superintendent of Police Rakesh Sakar also said the accused has a criminal record.
This comes as India has been steadily sliding on the Press Freedom Index -- 161st place among 180 countries. Further, in June this year, thinktank Rights and Risk Analysis Group released a report estimating that a total of 103 journalists were targeted across India by State actors. Of these, 70 journalists were arrested or detained and 14 journalists faced FIRs, the report said.
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