On August 28, 2021, a mob locked journalists Sarfaraz Warsi, Nitin Srivastava, Razi Siddiqui, and Fakhar-e-Alam in a room and discussed setting them on fire in Barabanki district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, according to news website News18, a partnership between CNN International and Indian broadcaster TV18, and Warsi and Srivastava, who spoke to CPJ over the phone. CPJ was unable to locate contact information for Siddiqui or Alam.
Late on the night of August 28 and into the early hours of August 29, Warsi, a regular freelance journalist with the privately owned broadcaster NDTV India, Srivastava, a journalist with privately owned broadcaster Zee News, Siddiqui, a journalist with privately owned, Uttar Pradesh-based private broadcaster K News, and Alam, a journalist with Uttarakhand-based private broadcaster HNM News, were reporting on an allegedly illegal COVID-19 vaccine drive in Manpur village in Barabanki, according to Srivastava. When they were getting ready to leave after completing their reporting, a mob surrounded them and started threatening them, Warsi told CPJ.
“They accused us of being ‘fake’ journalists, took away our equipment, and identity cards, and then locked us in a room,” Srivastava said. Both Warsi and Srivastava told CPJ that they overheard members of the mob discussing setting the four on fire with kerosene and mentioning that the kerosene had arrived. However, someone in the group intervened and stopped them from going ahead, according to Warsi. After forcing the journalists to delete photos from Srivastava’s camera and Warsi’s phone, members of the mob returned the equipment to the journalists and asked them to leave the village.
After leaving, the journalists informed the local police, who then arrested four men, according to Warsi. The police also opened an investigation into the attack and the vaccine drive. At least 69 people are alleged to have been involved in the attack and the vaccine drive, including 50 whose identifies are unknown, according to Siddiqui and a police complaint reviewed by CPJ.
Yamuna Prasad, superintendent of police in Barabanki, did not respond to CPJ’s call or text message. He was quoted by News18 as promising “strict action” against those involved in threatening the journalists.
In November 2020, Rakesh Singh, a journalist with a local Hindi newspaper Rashtriya Swaroop, died from burn injuries after his house was set on fire in Balrampur district in Uttar Pradesh, as CPJ documented at the time.