Probably, Uttar Pradesh will be listed as the most dangerous place for journalists. Within hours after the Supreme Court ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to release journalist Prashant Kanojia, another journalist was not only beaten but treated inhumanly, too, in the state. The police personnel even urinated in his mouth. Besides Kanojia, Ishika Singh, head of a Noida-based news channel, and Anuj Shukla, one of the editors of the channel, were arrested for allegedly making objectionable comments and propagating defamatory content against the UP chief minister. These incidents will malign the image of India, which was judged fifth-most deadliest place to be a journalist in 2018.
According to reports, journalist Amit Sharma went to cover a train derailment in Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh. He was thrashed by a group of GRP personnel on Tuesday night. He was beaten up on camera by a group of GRP personnel led by SHO Rakesh Kumar. The group was seen repeatedly slapping and thrashing the journalist while he tries to reason with them. Later, the journalist alleged that he was subjected to torture.
The journalist associated with a news channel, said, “They were in plain clothes. One hit my camera and it fell down. When I picked it up they hit and abused me. I was locked up, stripped and they urinated in my mouth.” The incident took place when he was covering a train derailment incident in Dhimanpura on Tuesday night.
The journalist was locked up in the GRP station. He dubbed the attack as a retaliation for a negative story. Accused inspector/SHO Rakesh Kumar sat on chair and kept confronting other journalists protesting against the incident. The journalist was reportedly dragged to the Government Railway Police (GRP) police station in Shamli and put behind the bars. He remained detained for the night while an order has been issued to release him on Wednesday morning.
Several local journalists rushed to the police station on learning about the incident and put the video footage of cops beating up Amit Sharma on social media. The journalists also reportedly contacted senior officials at the police headquarters. Videos of this incident were circulated on Twitter and social media. After this, DGP UP OP Singh ordered for suspension of SHO GRP Shamli Rakesh Kumar and Constable Sanjay Pawar. The UP police said that strict punishment shall be accorded to policemen misbehaving with citizens. The Uttar Pradesh police tweeted, “We have come across a video where a journalist has been beaten up & put up in a lock up. DGP UP OP Singh has ordered for immediate suspension of SHO GRP Shamli Rakesh Kumar & Const. Sanjay Pawar.”
The journalist told his colleagues who were protesting at the police station that he was being subjected to this torture because of a negative story he did on the railway police force. This incident took place just few hours after the Supreme Court slammed the Uttar Pradesh government for arresting journalist Prashant Kanojia for posting a video on CM Yogi Adityanath. Kanojia was arrested by the UP police on charges of defaming the chief minister of the state.
It is notable that Prashant Kanojia was in jail for over three days. He was not produced before any Magistrate to seek a transit remand. No arrest memo was prepared and neither Kanojia nor his wife was told of why he was being taken and who the arresting officials in civil dress were. An FIR was registered against Prashant Kanojia at Hazratganj police station on last Friday night in Lucknow. UP Police alleged that the accused made objectionable comments against the CM and tried to malign his image. Prashant Kanojia had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the CM’s office, expressing her desire to marry Yogi Adityanath and claiming that she had sent him a marriage proposal. Kanojia had shared a video on Twitter and Facebook where a woman is seen speaking to reporters of various media organisations outside the CM’s office, claiming that she had sent a marriage proposal to Adityanath. She claimed in the video that she had been conversing with the chief minister for a long time over video chat, and that now she wanted to know if he was willing to spend his life with her.
According to Jagisha Arora’s petition, the FIR against Kanojia has been filed under Sections 500 of the Indian Penal Code and 66 of the Information Technology Act, both of which are bailable offences. It is strange that the police filed a case against Section 500 (defamation), since the law requires the concerned person (in this case CM Yogi Adityanath) to file a complaint himself. There are procedural lapses on the part of the police, including not presenting Kanojia before a magistrate and no arrest memo being prepared. Two sections were later added to the charges, which were not on the original FIR – IPC Section 505 and IT Act Section 67.
According to report of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), there had been an increase in the number of journalists killed in 2018. Total 80 journalists were killed. Of these, 63 were professional journalists, compared with 55 professional journalists killed in 2017. RSF said 348 others were detained, 60 were held hostage and 3 were missing. Of the 80 killed, 49 were deliberately targeted because their reporting threatened the interests of certain people in positions of political, economic, or religious power or organised crime. The report said 15 journalists were killed in Afghanistan in 2018, making the nation the deadliest place to report from, 17 years after the US-led war began. 11 were killed in Mexico, 8 in Yemen, and 6 each in India and the United States. The positive news was from Iraq, where RSF reported no journalist was killed for the first time since the US-led invasion of 2003.