Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid on Tuesday complained to a Delhi court that there was a media trial against the accused in the Delhi carnage cases.
Khalid, who was arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for his alleged role in the violence, accused the media of repeatedly projecting people as guilty before the trial began. “This is against the rights of the accused and violates constitutional mandates,” he said.
This comes after another accused in the Delhi carnage cases, Asif Iqbal Tanha, said after the accused were demonised by the media, they had been discriminated against in jail. He added that he had not been given proper medical treatment in custody.
During today’s hearing, Khalid said that newspapers had published his pictures and those of Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, and other accused with headlines that pronounced them guilty of inciting the violence.
Ajit S Pujari, appearing on behalf of Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, cited news coverage by Times Now in particular. “All I am saying is that an investigative agency, which is leaking details to the media, legally has to give me the chargesheet,” he said, seeking a copy of it.
Citing “same issues with regards to media reporting”, special public prosecutor Amit Prasad showed a Newslaundry.
Prasad quoted a subhead from the report, “everything written under my name is a lie”. He didn’t specify that this wasn’t about him, giving an impression that he had been wrongly quoted in our report.
The prosecutor stated that the Newslaundry report was equivalent to other media reports that allegedly referred to Khalid as “rioter” and activist Khalid Saifi as a “terrorist”. “The prosecution also has equal concern when they talk about narratives being run,” Prasad said.
This is a false equivalence. As by Newslaundry, news channels such as Zee News advertised disclosure statements taken in police custody as “confessions”, while not clarifying they were legally inadmissible in court. In the Newslaundry report mentioned by Prasad, the authenticity of the disclosure statements and eyewitness testimonies were authenticated by cross-checking with the accused and the witnesses, who told us that their statements were fabricated.
Newslaundry didn’t use documents related to the police investigation to peddle unsubstantiated theories.
Saying he was unable to understand what charges had been made against him, activist Khalid Saifi said he had simply been labelled a terrorist. “Because my name is Khan, I am a terrorist.”
Saifi further said the police go to the media before coming to the court. The media publish unsubstantiated allegations which the police then use in the court. This must stop, he said.