Modi redoes Kashmir-like violence, media harassment in Punjab; Twitterati silenced

Flags hoisted at Red Fort by Indian farmers

The protestors are being killed. Internet is down with Twitter accounts being suspended. Prominent journalists are facing sedition charges just for portraying truth.

But this time, this not Kashmir.

Rather all this is being replicated in Punjab and even New Delhi.

The Narendra Modi regime which had been facing global humiliation for human rights abuses in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, is now under fire targeting the protestors of anti-farmer laws.

Going to a new low, the BJP-led government is giving shut-up calls to media for reporting the farmers’ rally which had hit the capital city on India’s Republic Day.

The journalists, who refused to bow before Modi’s fascism, are now facing sedition charges or got their social media accounts withheld.

Following a spate of FIRs against journalists and news portals over their coverage of farmers’ protests, several Twitter accounts of journalists, media outlets and social activists were withheld including that of an actor Sushant Singh, Caravan Magazine and Kisan Ekta Morcha (the official page for the farmers’ agitation) for reporting on farmers’ protests.

According to Twitter, Account withheld means Twitter was compelled to withhold the entire account specified (e.g., @username) in response to a valid legal demand, such as a court order.

But according to Indian media, in case of most of the victims of curbs, any such “legal demand” is yet unknown to them.

The Twitter accounts of Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO of Prasar Bharati, India’s largest public broadcasting service, Md Asif Khan and Hansraj Meena were also withheld.

Baljit Singh, head of IT for the farmers’ agitation, says private accounts of some other activists connected with the protest have also been withheld.

Indian news agency ANI, quoting sources, reported said the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) directed Twitter to block around 250 Tweets/Twitter accounts which the government claimed were using #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag 30 January.

However, Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor of The Caravan, denied that the publication ever used any such hashtag from their official account.

What to talk of media, even the opposition leaders have also been booked on sedition charges like Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

The journalists facing sedition charges include Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Vinod K. Jose (The Caravan) and others for tweeting and spreading fake news pertaining to the death of a farmer Navreet Singh during the tractor rally in Delhi on January 26.

The Uttar Pradesh Police on Saturday booked The Wire’s Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan on the same charges.

The Wire in its article by, Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, Navreet Singh’s grandfather, claimed that one of the doctors told him about a bullet wound. “But we were cheated, as the [postmortem] report that came out did not say that. The doctor even told me that even though he had seen the bullet injury, he can do nothing as his hands are tied.”

Police forces in various BJP-ruled states have registered cases against journalists who have reported on the farmers’ rally, in what journalist bodies describe as a concerted attack on the freedom of media.

Other journalists booked by police mostly in BJP-led states included India Today’s senior anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, Caravan magazine’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, its editor Anant Nath and executive editor Vinod K Jose and Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha.

Many of the cases have invoked the sedition law, claiming that the tweets were intended to ‘instigate violence’.

The media bodies in India strongly condemned the criminal cases against journalist aimed at harassing and intimidating media.

The joint press meeting was organised by the Press Council of India (PCI), the Editors’ Guild of India, the Press Association, the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Indian Journalists Union, which was packed with the country’s best known journalists.

 

“This is a pathetic excuse on the part of the concerned state governments. In a moving story, things change on a regular basis. Accordingly, the reporting reflects the circumstances, when large crowds are involved and the air is thick with suppositions, suspicions, and hypotheses, there can sometimes be a divergence between earlier and later reports. It is criminal to ascribe this to motivated reporting, as is sought to have been done,” the Press Council of India said in a statement.

Editor of The Print Shekhar Gupta said, “Nothing done by these journalists amounts to any crime. Journalists tend to make errors, it’s no crime. We might think that there will be excellent lawyers to take care of the penal charges in the court but the process itself is the punishment.”