Bijnor police on Saturday said that an FIR has been registered against two journalists — one working with a local daily and another with a local electronic media outlet — for “fake news reports claiming that a Dalit family in Titarwala Basi village under Mandawar police station area was not allowed to collect water from a village hand pump by an influential family of their community in the same village”.
In a video circulated on social media, Vishal, one of the journalists who were booked, claimed, “We received a call from one Premchand Valmiki of Basi village on September 4. He claimed that some influential persons of the village had threatened him and his family not to use a hand pump near their residence. Thus, they (the family) put up posters saying ‘house for sale’. We went to the village to collect facts and published a report in this regard.”
The other journalist who was booked on Saturday was identified as Rashid, police said.
Alleging that the two journalists were being “made targets” by the police for “factual reporting”, several local mediapersons took out a protest march in Bijnor on Saturday. “A journalist association here has formed an eight-member committee to take their fight to a logical end,” said Iftikhar Ahmed, a local journalist.
“The FIR against us has exposed the malafide intentions of the local police and is a big blow to the freedom of press .We are not frightened but the manner in which the voice of the media is being muzzled is a dangerous sign,” Vishal claimed in the video.
“We want the FIR to be scrapped and action must be taken against local police, who are biased against the press,” Vishal can be heard alleging in the video.
Satendra Kumar, in-charge of Mandawar police station told The Sunday Express on phone, “An FIR was registered against two local journalists for fake reporting in connection with a Dalit family in Basi village. The fact is that a team of Mandawar police went to the village when Premchand Valmiki registered a complaint with us .The police team called both the factions and they agreed (in presence of the police) that they will not fight over the issue of drinking water any further. I am on a raid in connection with a case and cannot give more details.”
Shiv Kumar, Mandawar village pradhan, said the issue has been settled due to the intervention of the police. “There was an issue regarding the Premchand family collecting water from a hand pump near their residence. There is a community hand pump outside Premchand’s residence but it developed snags, prompting him and his family to gather water from another hand pump in the village. But the issue has been settled due to the timely intervention of the Mandawar police.”
Bijnor SP Sanveej Tyagi told The Sunday Express, “The Mandawar police registered an FIR against two journalists who have run fake news regarding purported non-availability of water to a Dalit family, who then allegedly put up posters on an ‘exodus’ from the village and also claiming that the house was on sale. We ordered an inquiry and found that nothing of the sort has happened. There is no question of the voice of the media being muzzled. Our campaign is against reporting of fake news.”