Three journalists in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, have been booked for reporting on a yoga programme where children apparently performed without sufficient clothing to protect them against the cold.
An FIR under penal sections punishing public mischief and criminal intimidation was filed on January 25 at the Akbarpur police station against Mohit Kashyap, Amit Singh, and Yasin Ali following a complaint by the block education officer Sunil Dutt.
Although the FIR states that all three of them work for a local TV news channel, K News, only Mohit does. Amit works for News Nation, and Yasin is with a local Hindi channel JMD News.
In his complaint, Dutt accused the journalists of publishing a “wrong” story about a January 24 yoga programme held to commemorate Uttar Pradesh’s foundation day, UP Diwas. The video report showing school children performing at the event without warm clothes despite the cold soon went viral on social media.
Dutt claimed the journalists were not even at the programme, but Mohit insisted otherwise. “There were 20 to 25 kids and I got soundbites from two students,” he said. “Kids wearing shorts and shirts were made to perform yoga right in front of my eyes.”
He also claimed that the education officer had invited the children to perform at the programme without informing their parents that they would be asked to take off their warm clothes. For this, the K News report described the block education officer as “sanki”, or eccentric, and “besharm”, meaning shameless. The TV news channel also referred to the government order inviting the children to the function as “Tughlaqi farman”, a colloquial term for arbitrary order.
Though the programme was held indoors, Mohit said the children were made to stand out in the open before the event began. Among those present at the function were state minister Ajit Singh Pal, Akbarpur MLA Pratibha Shukla, Rasoolabad MLA Nirmala Sankhwar, besides Kanpur Dehat’s district magistrate and police chief.
Mohit told Newslaundry he shot for his report outside and inside the hall. “The DM was doing yoga wearing pants, a full-sleeved shirt and shoes. Why did no one care about the children?” he asked.
Yasin, who has been with JMD News for four years, also contradicted the block education officer’s claim that he wasn’t at the yoga function. “The administration has erred by saying I was not present at the venue. I left midway after covering the event,” he told Newslaundry over the phone.
He rejected the allegation that the three of them had spread misinformation. “The news item they have complained about was never aired on my channel. We did a story only on the celebration of UP Diwas,” Yasin said. “I never posted a video on my timeline.”
Dutt’s complaint originally named only Mohit and Amit, Yasin said, and his name was only added later. “Eight hours later my name was added to the FIR,” he said, adding that he informed the district magistrate, the police chief and the education officer that his report was factually sound but didn’t receive a response. “My name has been added to the FIR without evidence or a proper investigation.”
Yasin argued that the complaint was meant to “intimidate” reporters.
He, like Mohit, stood by his story, pointing out that it was clear from the video that the children were made to perform without warm clothes even though the dress code for schoolchildren allows them to wear pants, full-sleeved shirts, sweaters, socks, and shoes, along with head caps or mufflers, in winter.
Amit declined to speak about either the police complaint or the programme.
Vivek Mishra is a freelance journalist in Kanpur.