In an excessive action against the media fraternity, the Uttar Pradesh police have arrested three journalists—a Delhi-based freelancer and two TV journalists—for allegedly defaming UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Delhi-based journalist Prashant Jagdish Kanojiya’s only fault was that on June 6, he tweeted the video of a woman who claimed to have been in love in with the chief minister and was seeking a commitment from him. The freelance journalist, an IIMC alumnus who has worked with The Wire before, tweeted the video shot by TV channels and wrote “Ishq chupta nahi chupaane se yogi ji”.
Prashant’s tweet went viral as some saw it as a satirical post while Adityanath’s supporters were left livid. “Abuses were hurled in the replies section of the same Twitter thread,” said Prashant’s close aide.
This reporter went through the Twitter thread and found that a number of replies were ‘unavailable’ which means that those might have been deleted afterwards.
A day later, Vikas Kumar, a sub-inspector with the UP police, filed an FIR against Prashant in Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station. “I didn’t know that the FIR was filed for Prashant’s tweet. I came to know about this only after he was arrested,” said Jagisha, Prashant’s wife.
According to Jagisha, four people in civilian dress came to their house in Vinod Nagar, near Akshardham, and identified themselves as Uttar Pradesh police. However, the cops could not furnish an arrest warrant when Prashant asked for the same, Jagisha said.
Prashant’s colleagues have questioned UP police’s way of action. “Why didn’t UP police accompany Delhi Police? At least they should have furnished arrest warrant to the family. If an FIR was already filed, they need not come in civilian dress. They should have come in uniform and informed the family about the same,” his colleagues complain.
Two TV journalists arrested
Late last evening, the UP police also arrested two journalists from Nation Live news channel in Noida for organising a panel discussion over the allegations made by the woman.
“The channel aired the video without verification. This has infuriated party workers. A case in this regard has been registered by sub-inspector Dhamendra Singh under sections 505 (1), 505 (2), 501 and 153 of IPC,” UP police said in a press release. It also said the channel was operating in the name of ‘Network 10’ and without a licence.
“On a complaint by Assistant Director of District Information Office, a case has been registered against Nation Live under the Sections 419, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of IPC. Channel Head Ishika Singh and Editor Anuj Shukla have been arrested,” the police said.
In the meantime, sources say all the channels who had broadcast the video have been served notice by the police. According to the sources, UP Chief Minister’s Office had guided the SSP to ensure action into the matter and thus, the arrests followed.
“Vikash Kumar in his FIR mentioned that the intent of the tweet was to defame the image of UP CM Adityanath,” said sources in Hazratganj police station. According to Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, “Uttar Pradesh police’s cyber crime branch had formed a look-out team on June 6th and were reportedly searching for him in Noida.”
UP police has booked Prashant under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code and Section 66 of Information Technology Act (Amendment), 2008. There is also a discrepancy in the FIR and the press note released by police last night. Press note says they have evidence against Prashant under Section 505 of IPC whereas the FIR doesn’t mention this.
The ‘lovestruck’ woman
On June 6, a woman from Nawabganj in Kanpur wanted to meet the UP CM at his official residence. She claimed herself to be the CM’s beloved. She also alleged that the CM was in touch with her through video-conferencing for around a year. The video in which she made these claims was tweeted by Prashant. According to sources, the lady has also been arrested by the police now.
The demands for releasing Prashant is now soaring up on social media. Eminent journalists and activists have expressed solidarity with him. The Network For Women In Media issued a statement demanding the immediate release of three journalists, meanwhile
“Prashant’s arrest is completely absurd,” said Rajeev Yadav from Rihai Manch, Lucknow. Rajeev laughs over the FIR and says, “The CM is defamed for a tweet! But he is not defamed when he is accused of inciting riots and also not defamed when he gives himself a clean chit.”
Investigating Officer Vrijendra Kumar Mishra could not be contacted for his comment. This story will be updated as and when he replies to our messages.
AK Bhattarchaya, General Secretary of Editors Guild of India, refused to comment saying, “Only the president is authorised to comment. Since we work in close co-ordination, we cannot comment on it without discussing in the forum”. The phone number of Shekhar Gupta, president of the Editors Guild of India, was switched off. The Guild released a statement later today.
“I don’t know if it is misuse or not but it is absolutely overuse of law. There is an ongoing trend in all the democratic countries of the world that they have been repealing defamation law. Here, we are saying that its overused in public discourse,” said senior journalist Dilip Mandal.
(The author is a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)