Barabanki police have registered an FIR against online news portal, The Wire, for allegedly spreading animosity in society and disturbing communal harmony over its video documentary on the demolition of a “mosque” by district administration. Two journalists of The Wire – Seraj Ali and Mukul S Chauhan — and two others identified as Mohammad Naeem and Mohammad Anees have been named in the FIR.
The Wire called the charges “baseless” and accused the BJP government of “criminalising the work of journalists who are reporting what is happening in the state”.
Last month, the Barabanki district administration had demolished a mosque located inside the Ramsnehi Ghat Tehsil premises. The district administration called it an “illegal structure”. The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board had termed the district administration’s action illegal and moved the Allahabad High Court against it. The matter is currently pending in the High Court.
“On June 23, the online news portal, The Wire, shared a video documentary about the Ramsnehi Ghat Tehsil premises on their Twitter handle. In the documentary, they have shown false and baseless information. The video contains several wrong and baseless statements, including the one which says that the administration and police threw religious scriptures in drain and river. This is false. Nothing of this sort happened. With misinformation like this, The Wire is trying to spread animosity in society and disturbing communal harmony,” Barabanki District Magistrate Adarsh Singh said in a statement on Thursday night.
Superintendent of Police (Barabanki) Yamuna Prasad said that Mohammad Naeem, named in the FIR, was the person in the documentary who was making the “false claims about religious books being thrown in the river and drain”.
“The complaint was lodged by a police officer, based on which an FIR has been lodged. Further action is underway,” Prasad added.
Siddharth Varadarajan, the Founding Editor of The Wire, said: “This is the fourth FIR filed by the UP Police in the past 14 months against The Wire and/or its journalists and each of these cases is baseless. The Adityanath government does not believe in media freedom and is criminalising the work of journalists who are reporting what is happening in the state.”
“In UP, politicians and anti-social elements can openly spew communal hatred and advocate violence, but the police never see these actions as a threat to communal harmony and law and order. But when journalists report the statements of people who allege wrongdoing on the part of the administration — in this case, the allegation is of the illegal demolition of a mosque — FIRs are immediately filed. The Wire is not going to be intimidated by these tactics,” he added.
The FIR has been registered under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (1) (b) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).