UP Police books Scroll journalist over article on COVID-19 lockdown in Varanasi; website terms FIR 'attempt to silence independent journalism'

The Scroll article described the struggles of people living in Domari, a village which is a part of the prime minister's constituency.

FP Staff June 18, 2020 22:40:22 IST
UP Police books Scroll journalist over article on COVID-19 lockdown in Varanasi; website terms FIR 'attempt to silence independent journalism'

The Uttar Pradesh Police has filed an FIR against Scroll journalist Supriya Sharma over a report on the effects of the coronavirus lockdown in Varanasi. Responding to the FIR, the news website has stated that it stands by its article.

Scroll further said in its statement, "This FIR is an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism, reporting on conditions of vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 lockdown."

UP Police books Scroll journalist over article on COVID19 lockdown in Varanasi website terms FIR attempt to silence independent journalism

File image of journalist Supriya Sharma. Image courtesy: Twitter/@sharmasupriya

The article described the struggles of people living in Domari, a village which is a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency and has been adopted by him.

In the article, one of them, Mala Devi,  has been quoted as saying that she and her family often had to sleep on just tea and rotis after her employers stopped paying her during the lockdown. Mala, however, subsequently filed a police complaint claiming she had been wrongly quoted, on the basis of which an FIR was registered.

Mala claims in the FIR that in her interview with Sharma, she had said that neither she nor anyone else in her family faced any problems. She states, "By claiming that me and my children went hungry, Supriya Sharma made fun of my poverty and my caste. This has caused me mental trauma and damaged my reputation in society."

The FIR was filed on 13 June under Section 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and Section 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code, as well as provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Scroll has said in its statement that Sharma interviewed Mala on 5 June. It has asserted, "Her statements have accurately been reported in the article titled, ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown'."

According to the article, Mala lives on the outskirts of Domari village, in a cluster of Dalit homes. Although her mother had a ration card, she did not, the article stated.

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