New Delhi: Journalists and media watchdog organisations have rallied around an editor of the news website Scroll after the Uttar Pradesh Police filed a First Information Report or FIR against her.
The FIR was filed for a story by Scroll’s Executive Editor Supriya Sharma on a village adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency where residents complained about scarcity of food.
The FIR names Ms Sharma, and the “Main Chief Editor” of Scroll.
“Launching a criminal investigation into a journalist for her work in the Prime Minister’s parliamentary constituency is a clear intimidation tactic and sends a chilling message to journalists across the country,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists, a global press freedom watchdog.
Reporters Without Borders, another press freedom body, called the FIR an “attempt to intimidate one of India’s most resilient reporters”.
Former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur told NDTV the “(FIR) is very unfortunate”. “The freedom of the press, free speech and expression are under threat,” he said.
The police filed the FIR after a complaint by a woman who was quoted in the Scroll piece that said she and her family struggled for food.
In the FIR, the woman, Mala Devi, denied having said any such thing and also accused the reporter of mocking her poverty and caste. The police have imposed charges under sections of the law that do not allow bail and for defamation.
The FIR also imposes Sections 269 of the Indian Penal Code, which penalises action “likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life”.
In a statement, Scroll said it stands by the story and the FIR is an attempt to silence independent journalism.