A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, against journalist, Supriya Sharma. Sharma is the Executive Editor of the news portal Scroll and has been actively reporting on various subjects from across the country for years.
The @varanasipolice has booked senior journalist @sharmasupriya of @scroll_in on charges like defamation and sections of the SC / ST act after a complaint by a woman who was a case study in a recent story filed by Supriya from a village adopted by PM Modi in the east UP city…. pic.twitter.com/HOliJDNsTb
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) June 18, 2020
Over the last few days Sharma has been filing ground reports from Varanasi on the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown on common people. She has now has been booked under various charges including the SC/ST Act. She has been charged under Section 501 of The Indian Penal Code. Which is ‘printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory. As stated on the legal web portal Indian Kanoon, “whoever prints or engraves any matter, knowing or having good reason to believe that such matter is defamatory of any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both’. She is also charged under Section 269, the offence is explained by the legal portal as a: “Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life. The punishment for :“Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life,” is “imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.”
The FIR, dated June 13, and filed at nearly 11 pm, also names, Scroll chief editor (though it does not record his name) as a co-accused. The complainant has stated that the reporter had spoken to her during the lockdown and asked about her situation. She alleged that she had told the reporter that she and her family did not face any problem during the lockdown. The complainant alleged that the journalist has misreported that the family had faced hardships, and hunger. The complainant has alleged that the report makes light of her caste.
The journalists have also been charged under Section 3 of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Scores of journalists and writers have come out in support of Sharma, and Scroll. Journalist and author Rahul Pandita posted: This is extremely worrying. A fine reporter like Supriya Sharma harrassed like this.”
While, writer Nilanjana Roy posted: “ Anything can happen in New India. Journalists who spread fake news from their studios = no problem. Journalists who get on the ground and dare to report from the PM's constituency = kari ninda + FIR. Support #SupriyaSharma and @scroll_in.”
Anything can happen in New India. Journalists who spread fake news from their studios = no problem.
Journalists who get on the ground and dare to report from the PM's constituency = kari ninda + FIR.
Support #SupriyaSharma and @scroll_in. https://t.co/TAlWVZ2BsN
— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) June 18, 2020
Roy also shared a “Quick reminder” that “India’s ratings in the annual World Press Index has been continuously sliding. The 2020 index, put together by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, has placed India in 142nd position, below neighbours Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.”
Recently the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) in released a report has listed about 55 journalists who were targetted for doing their jobs during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Across the country, journalists have faced arrest, been summoned by police, slapped with show causes notices, alleged assaulted physically and threatened for reporting on various situations that have risen during the Covid-19 lockdown.
List of states where journalists have been targetted (data from March 25 to May 31 2020) is led by:
1: Uttar Pradesh (11 journalists)
2: Jammu & Kashmir (6)
3: Himachal Pradesh (5),
4: Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra (4 cases each)
5: Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh & Kerala(2 cases each).
6: Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Nagaland and Telangana (1 case each).
According to the report, journalists have been booked under various stringent laws including these sections of the Indian Penal Code: Sedition ( Sections 124A), Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, defamation (Section500), and also under Sections 66 ( IT related offences), and many more.