Three journalists – Mohammad Zubair of Alt News and independent journalists Saba Naqvi and Rana Ayyub – and digital news platform the Wire have been named in an FIR in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad for "provoking communal sentiments" in their tweets about an elderly Muslim man being beaten up by a group of men.
, filed at Loni police station on June 15, also names Twitter and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani. Those named in the FIR have also been accused of posting tweets without "verifying facts".
The took place on June 5 at Loni. A viral video showed a man named Abdul Samad being beaten up by a group of six men, who also threatened him. They used scissors to chop off his beard. There was no audio in the video.
Two days later, in a Facebook live, Samad alleged that he had been abducted and forced to chant "Jai Shri Ram" and "Vande Mataram" while being assaulted. In the live, he was accompanied by a local Samajwadi Party leader, .
Samad's allegations were widely reported in the media, including , , and .
Zubair had tweeted the second video of Samad's allegations. Ayyub had tweeted the audio-less video of the assault and alleged that the Samad was forced to chant slogans. Naqvi had tweeted an Indian Express report about the incident, saying the election-bound state of Uttar Pradesh was turning into a "Hindu rashtra". The Wire tweeted that Samad was forced to chant slogans.
The FIR stated that the tweets had been shared with a "clear motive" to "provoke communal sentiments", adding that the "misleading" posts were retweeted by thousands of people.
According to NDTV, the FIR stated that though the Ghaziabad police had ruled out a communal angle through a Twitter post, the users did not delete their posts and Twitter took no action to remove them. The police version of events is that six men, both Hindu and Muslim, knew Samad, who had sold them amulets as part of an occult practice. They allegedly assaulted Samad when the amulets did not yield the desired result.
While Zubair and Ayyub deleted their tweets this morning, the tweets by the Wire and Naqvi are still up as of publishing this report.
Zubair also tweeted a clarification, saying that "the victim's version of him being forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' at this point in time do not seem to add up based on my conversations with police authorities and other journalists reporting on this issue".