The Delhi Union of Journalists expresses its shock at the registration of an FIR against Scroll Executive Editor Supriya Sharma for filing a story on hunger during the lockdown in villages around Varanasi. The Scroll Editor in Chief has also been charged.
It is regrettable that the state has chosen to misuse the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to charge the journalist. In the FIR, a woman interviewed for the story claims that she was misquoted. She says she did not tell the journalist that she and her family went hungry as work dried up and claims that the story is an attempt to defame Scheduled Caste people like her.
The journalist has also been charged under S. 501 of the IPC for defamation and strangely enough under S.269 for a “negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life.”
Scroll has issued a statement saying that it stands by the story. Sharma’s record speaks for itself. In 2014-15 she won the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist
DUJ strongly condemns the use of FIRs to intimidate journalists valiantly doing their job during the current pandemic and economic crisis. Journalists run incredible risks to their own health and safety by reporting from the field. We expect governments to respond to such reports and critiques by taking measures to alleviate distress among the people, instead of shooting the messenger.
We note with dismay the growing tendency to victimise journalists for speaking truth to power. The Rights and Risks Analysis group has compiled a report pointing out that between March 25 to May 31, 2020 as many as 55 journalists have been targeted in various states, slapped with police cases, harassed, assaulted and threatened for daring to report on the fallout of the Covid lockdown. We deplore all such attacks on media freedom and democracy.