Assam police arrest journalists for reporting on minor’s ‘porn’ video

The police are yet to find two of the accused but have held the journalists to cover up their own incompetence, say local press bodies.

ByPratyush Deep
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Assam police arrest journalists for reporting on minor’s ‘porn’ video
Nassidur Rahman, left, and Mustafizur Ahmed.|Shambhavi Thakur
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On July 9, a video clip was posted on social media. It purportedly showed four men having sex with a girl, later revealed to be a minor aged 17, in Assam’s Morigaon.

The clip soon went viral on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. On July 17, the minor’s father filed a police complaint against two of the men seen in the video. His daughter had been missing since July 9, he said, and when he saw the viral clip he believed the men had “kidnapped” her. An FIR was registered on July 19 and two of the accused were subsequently arrested.

As were two journalists, apparently for reporting on the case.

Nassidur Rahman, 40, and Mustafizur Ahmed, 30, both work for Facebook-based Assamese news portals; Rahman for NewzNow and Ahmed for DA News Plus.

They have been booked under section 228A of the Indian Penal Code which punishes disclosing the identity of a victim; section 67B of the IT Act which deals with publishing or transmitting child pornography; and sections 14 and 15 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act for “showing sexual contents of the minor girl”.

Rahman’s and Ahmed’s reports focused on the failure of the police to nab the accused, and the delay in the investigation. Their reports appeared on July 22 and they were arrested the very next day. They are now in custody.

The minor, meanwhile, is at a children’s shelter now. The police wouldn’t tell Newslaundry why she hadn’t been sent home.

Newslaundry reviewed the clips used in the reports published by Rahman and Ahmed. Neither mentioned the name of the minor and the visuals of the sexual acts were blurred. But there are visuals of the minor girl sitting with the men in which her face is not visible though two of the men are in full view.

The Moirabari Press Club has alleged the police arrested the journalists for exposing the police’s “failure” in arresting all the accused men. The minor’s father also told Newslaundry he had urged the media to report on the matter.

The FIR against Rahman and Ahmed slammed “a few channels and portals” for exposing the minor’s identity.

NewzNow, B24 News, COBRA News, Current Trend Assam, BMC News, Sangbad Lahar, DK365, SJ News, Sankar Jyoti, Da News Plus, Ishan News, and others astonishingly published the news on social media showing sexual contents of the minor girl exposing the victim of POCSO Act case,” the FIR said.

Aparna Natarajan, Morigaon superintendent of police, told Newslaundry Rahman and Ahmed had covered the incident in a “titillating” manner, that they had not blurred the minor’s face, and that the thumbnails of their videos had pictures of a “naked man and woman”.

“The video was quite explicit and the news had the content of child pornography,” Natarajan said. “We had initially asked the reporters to take down the video because it had child pornographic content...We told them that under the IT Act and POCSO Act, it is a crime to cover child pornography, leave alone transmit it. Even to possess child pornography is a crime.”

Natarajan confirmed to Newslaundry that the police had telephoned various journalists asking that the video report be taken down. When they “did not take it down”, she added, “we registered a case and the two reporters have been arrested.”

Newslaundry accessed a recording of a phone call between a police officer and one of the arrested journalists. In it the police officer is heard saying, “You published the news using video and all...If you don’t want to go to jail, take down the video. Otherwise, you will be arrested for sure.”

Mehboob Muktar, president of the Moirabari Press Club, told Newslaundry that Rahman and Ahmed had reported on the story after being approached by the minor’s father.

“The police first threatened the journalists to take down the news report,” Muktar said. “When they did not obey, the police filed a case and arrested them.”

The minor’s father confirmed to Newslaundry that he had approached the journalists due to his frustration with the police. “Instead of arresting the miscreants, they put the journalists in jail,” he said. “Tell me, where will we go now? If they can put journalists in jail, imagine what they can do with us. I will never go to the police station again.”

Importantly, the father has also filed an affidavit with the notary public, Morigaon, stating that when he went to submit his police complaint on July 17 about his daughter being missing, Moirabari sub-inspector Sabir Ali was allegedly “not willing” to receive his complaint and “asked him to trace his daughter on his own”.

The minor’s father alleged that Ali “abused him”. The officer in charge of Moirabari police station “did not give much interest in investigating the matter”, the affidavit alleges, adding, “Later on, when the matter went to the media, on my request, media personnel wrote the news.”

Natarajan said she wasn’t aware of the father’s affidavit. “In case of any complaint, my office is always open,” she said. “The father of the victim has not approached me.”

Meanwhile, the police have not been able to apprehend two of the four accused. Natarajan said it was because the case was reported “very late”.

After Rahman’s and Ahmed’s arrests, the press clubs of Moirabari and Lahorighat held a protest on July 27. The Marigaon District Media Club accused the police of arresting the journalists to “cover up” their own incompetence and demanded a judicial inquiry.

Also Read :
‘I just chronicled what happened’: Assam journalist Anirban Roy Choudhury on being charged with sedition
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