India: IJU Condemns FIR Against Haryana Journalist12 Apr, 2021
The Indian Journalists Union condemns the Hisar police, Haryana for lodging an FIR against a journalist Rajesh Kundu under charges of “cyber terrorism” and “promoting communal disharmony” for his alleged posts over social media platforms. The action is an impingement on his right to freedom of speech and expression as well as an ongoing bid by governments to intimidate and harass the media, said the IJU.
Kundu who runs a news portal, is working for a TV channel in the district, and has been covering the farmers’ agitation was booked on Friday over a Facebook post, which was shared on WhatsApp. The FIR against Kundu was lodged under Sections 153A (promoting communal disharmony) and 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the IPC and Section 66F (cyber terrorism) of the IT Act, 2000.
A complaint against Kundu was made by a police spokesperson Vikram in Hisar, wherein he accused Kundu of preparing “a script for caste-related violence” and alleged that he had worked to “incite common men” while apprehending “adverse impact of post on national integrity”. Kundu has rubbished the accusation saying he only “performed my duty of a responsible citizen and journalist by sharing a post regarding my apprehension of violence on the occasion of B R Amdekar Jayanti on April 14 on the basis of information received through sources…”
In a statement, IJU President and former Member, Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Vice President Sabina Inderjit demanded that the case be withdrawn immediately as the FIR was merely to harass the journalist and stifle his freedom of expression. Worse, the IJU leadership said the BJP-ruled Haryana government was indulging in intimidation and harassment of media covering the farmers’ stir and using social media posts as a mere tool.
The IJU also cautioned the Centre and State governments from filing FIRs against journalists for their posts on social media as the sinister trend was rising menacingly, which gravely impacted the citizens’ right to information as well as India’s claim to being a vibrant democracy. Counter the posts instead, rather than yield the stick, advised the IJU.