On June 7, about a dozen journalists in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur jumped into the Ganga river, half naked, to conduct a “jal satyagraha”, a protest against the harassment meted out by the local administration for their purported critical reporting.
Two journalists, who have been slapped with FIRs, are at the centre of the protests – Ajay Bhadauria, 57, and Vivek Mishra, 35.
Bhadauria told Newslaundry that he was booked on May 13 for a mere tweet in which he pointed out that a community kitchen in Fatehpur’s Vijaypur had closed down. The sub-divisional magistrate had him booked for circulating false news.
“I specified that the community kitchen in Vijaypur had closed. I have interviews to prove it. But the police complaint says that I claimed all community kitchens in Fatehpur have been closed,” he said.
Ajay Bhadauria protesting against harassment by the Fatehpur district administration on June 7.
In a video obtained by Newslaundry, a submerged Bhadauria can be seen protesting with other local journalists. “This is a protest against the tyrannical ways of the district magistrate in Fatehpur, Sanjeev Singh,” the journalist says in the video. “He is putting charges on journalists for truthful reporting. He has openly insulted reporters while they tried to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Vivek Mishra was booked last December for reporting on dysfunctional cowsheds in Fatehpur. “Cows have been dying in cowsheds across the district. I reported it for Dainik Bhaskar. The DM filed an FIR against me, but I have videos to prove my claim,” Mishra said at the protest.
In a press note released on June 7, the Fatehpur DM said an investigation by the District Information Officer had found that Bhadauria – who has been a journalist for 32 years – “is not associated with any print or electronic media in the year 2020”. This is essentially an official denial that Bhadauria is a journalist.
It added: “Bhadauria has constantly used his personal Twitter account to besmirch the administration by tweeting one-sided, delusional rumours.”
The protesting journalists demanded the transfer of the district magistrate and an investigation into his harassment of journalists.
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