Police in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, have arrested, investigated, and filed complaints against journalists in several separate incidents since August 31, 2019, according to news reports and the journalists, who spoke to CPJ.
On August 31, police in Mirzapur announced that they had opened an investigation into Pawan Jaiswal, a reporter for Hindi-language daily Jansandesh Times, for his alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy, obstruction of public servants, use of false evidence, and cheating, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via phone, and news reports.
The allegations stemmed from Jaiswal’s reporting on a local school, which he alleged was serving meals that were below the government’s minimum standards, he said. Jaiswal said he recorded video of students in the school eating a lunch of salt and roti.
“In spite of taking action against the principal of the school based on Jaiswal’s report, the local administration decided to go after him,” Jaiswal’s editor, Vijay Vineet, told CPJ via phone.
Mirzapur District Magistrate Anurag Patel did not respond to a call from CPJ requesting comment. In a press conference on September 3, Patel questioned Jaiswal’s intent as a reporter, saying, “If he was from print media, then why was he making video of the incident? Rather he should have clicked pictures if he really wanted to cover the news.”
Jaiswal told CPJ that government officials asked him to keep a low profile regarding the case.
“They say nothing will happen to me if I keep quiet,” he said. “But I want the charges dropped. I have done nothing wrong, I was just doing my job as a journalist.”
On September 7, police in Azamgarh arrested Santosh Jaiswal, another Jansandesh Times reporter, who is not related to Pawan, while he was reporting at a different school, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ on the phone, and news reports. Police released him on September 11 after the Azamgarh district magistrate ordered his release, Santosh Jaiswal said.
Jaiswal went to the school to report on rumors that students were being forced to take on janitorial work, and had a verbal altercation with the school’s principal after the principal told him to leave, he told CPJ. Jaiswal called the police, who took both he and the principal to the local station, he said.
At the station, Shiv Shankar Singh, a police officer whom Jaiswal had previously written critical articles about, arrested the journalist and charged him under various provisions including criminal conspiracy, cheating, and obstructing public servants from discharging their duties, Jaiswal said.
Vineet told CPJ that the district magistrate ordered Jaiswal’s release and has promised to drop the charges. Neither Shiv Shankar Singh nor Nagendra Prasad Singh, the magistrate, responded to CPJ’s text messages seeking comment.
Also on September 7, police in Bijnor district filed a criminal complaint against five journalists who reported on alleged caste discrimination, according to news reports.
Police accused Ashish Tomar, a reporter for the Dainik Jagran newspaper, Shakeel Ahmed, a reporter at broadcaster News18, and three other unidentified journalists of criminal nuisance, intimidation, and “promoting enmity,” according to those reports and Tomar, who spoke to CPJ via phone.
Tomar told CPJ that police pressured him to file an affidavit apologizing for his reporting. “Why should I apologize for my work? I reported what I saw,” he said. “The police want me to say that I filed my report without any evidence. This is not true.”
The police claimed that their investigation showed that the journalists had made up the incident, however the Indian Express reported that one of the accusers has admitted to having made a false statement against the journalists under duress from police.
Bijnor Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Tyagi did not respond to a phone call from CPJ.