FIR against journalist Supriya Sharma for a report from PM’s constituency

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The Uttar Pradesh police has filed a First Information Report (FIR) against a Delhi-based journalist, executive editor of Scroll.in, Supriya Sharma for a report on the impact of the lockdown in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home constituency.

Ms. Sharma has been charged under the Indian Penal Code’s sections 269, and 501 — dealing with “negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life” and printing “defamatory matter” — along with Section 3 of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The FIR has been filed by Mala Devi, who was interviewed by Ms. Sharma for the report, at the Ramnagar Police Station in Varanasi accusing the journalist of “lying and publishing fake news” in the report that “I work as a help… and sleep on tea and chapati.”

On 8 June, Scroll.in ran a story reported by Ms. Sharma from a village in Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home-constituency: “In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown”. 

In the first information content of the FIR copy, Ms. Devi has asked the police to take action against Ms. Sharma and the Editor-in-Chief of Scroll.in, accusing them of hurting her sentiments by “making fun of my poverty [and] my caste”.

Scroll.in has stated that it stands by the article. “This FIR is an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism, reporting on conditions of vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 lockdown,” the news website said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time when a journalist has been charged for highlighting the adverse impact of the sudden nationwide lockdown, imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic, on the marginalised communities in PM Modi’s constituency.

On 26 March, this year, journalists Vijay Vineet and Manish Mishra, published a report in the local daily Janadesh Times, of members of a marginalised community in Koiripur village in PM Modi’s constituency reportedly surviving on grass since the lockdown was imposed. 

Varanasi District Magistrate (DM) Kaushal Raj Sharma had issued a show cause notice to the journalists, directing them to publish a denial. However, Mr. Vineet stood his ground and told The Print that he has visual evidence to corroborate his report. “[T]he condition of Musahars in Koiripur village has been very poor for the last three to four days. Due to the lockdown they are unable to go anywhere and have no money either.”

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