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The Mumbai Press Club strongly condemns the U.P. police for registering an F.I.R. and arresting journalist, Sanjay Rana, in Sambhal district on Sunday, 12 March merely for the ‘offence’ of asking questions of a minister in respect of unfulfilled election promises. 

What meaning will ‘Freedom of the Press’ – a constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Right – have if journalists are not allowed to ask questions of ministers? 

From videos and newspaper reports, it appears that journalist Rana, the Chandausi correspondent of the ‘Moradabad Ujala’, had asked a few questions to state education minister Gulab Devi. At a public event in the Buddhanagar village, the journalist sought to know why the minister’s poll promises, like building a boundary wall and repairing the village roads, had not been honoured. The minister took offence to be named publicly. According to the journalist, he was taken to the local police station, where policemen beat him.

The BJP leader Shubham Raghav, who filed the FIR, has claimed that Sanjay Rana was a ‘fake journalist’ and that he was in a drunken state and disturbed the programme of the minister. However, the video footage amply proves that the journalist had merely raised a few questions, which were thereafter supported by members of the public. 

From prima facie evidence it is clear there was no attempt by the police to verify from the newspaper’s editor whether he was on official duty before arresting him. Rana has been charged for causing hurt (IPC 323), intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace (IPC 504) and criminal intimidation (IPC 506).  If convicted, Rana can be jailed for up to 2 years.

Dharmendra Singh, the editor of ‘Moradabad Ujala’, summed up the situation of the state of the media in UP and the country when he said in a press statement:  “This is a horrible situation that journalists are facing in the state. They cannot even ask questions of ministers.”

The Mumbai Press Club also expresses its shock and disgust at the way Sanjay Rana was held by the Kotwali Police like a common criminal by tying him with ropes and dragging him to the police station. The attempt was obviously to insult and humiliate not only the journalist, but send out a warning to media persons. 

The Club demands that the UP government immediately withdraw all charges against journalist Sanjay Rana and set up an independent inquiry against the minister and other police personnel. 

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