Shashi Tharoor and some journalists face charges over posts on farmers’ tractor rally

New Delhi:

One more police case has been filed against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and journalists including Rajdeep Sardesai, this time in Delhi, for their posts on social media and comments on the violence that broke out during a tractor rally by farmers on Republic Day.

In a First Information Report filed in Delhi on a complaint by city resident Chiranjiv Kumar, the police said Mr Tharoor and the others misled people on the death of a protester in central Delhi’s ITO when thousands of farmers entered areas in the national capital, including the Red Fort, that were not in the agreed route of the tractor rally.

The other journalists named in the Delhi Police FIR are Mrinal Pande, Paresh Nath, Anant Nath and Vinod K Jose.

The Uttar Pradesh Police was the first to file an FIR in Noida that includes charges for alleged sedition, followed by a similar case filed by the police in Madhya Pradesh. The case filed by the Delhi Police mentions sections under the Indian Penal Code, but doesn’t include sedition.

“…They posted fake, misleading and wrong information regarding unfortunate death of the tractor driver in accident to instigate violence amongst protestors,” the Delhi Police said in a statement on Saturday. “They all tried to imply that the death of the farmer was caused by the violence committed by the Delhi Police under directions of the central government… Such insensitive statements are prejudicial to national integration in this sensitive situation. Such messages are forwarded several times causing false narrative and making citizenry ill informed,” the police said in the statement.

The Editors Guild of India has condemned filing of police cases against journalists over the farmers’ protest. “The journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protestors on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent. It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice,” the Editors Guild said in a statement on Friday.

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Journalists also gathered at the Press Club of India in Delhi to protest against the FIRs on Saturday. “Today the atmosphere is such, it’s so poisonous, so toxic… Even during the Emergency, rules against journalists were not so harsh, I don’t recall anybody going in for sedition,” Press Club of India chief Anand Sahay said, news agency PTI reported.

Mr Sahay named other journalists who have been charged in recent times, including Siddique Kappan from Kerala, Kishore Chandra Wangkhem from Manipur, Dhaval Patel from Gujarat, Rahul Kulkarni from Maharashtra and and Vinod Dua.

Editors Guild chief Seema Mustafa said the government’s action against journalists are meant to “intimidate and harass” them. “This is only being done to intimidate, harass, victimise the journalists against whom these cases are being filed. But also to terrorise the professionals as well, to make you think twice, to make you afraid of doing your job, to be worried every time you write, to be looking over your shoulder, and then of course the editors, the proprietors those who control the news to be very reluctant in reporting the news as it is,” Ms Mustafa said, PTI reported.

On January 26, thousands of protesting farmers clashed with the police during the tractor rally in protest against new farm laws. Hundreds of protesters had entered the Red Fort and clashed with the police.

The tractor rally was allowed to start after the Republic Day parade in the national capital was over. However, it soon descended into lawlessness after the farmers broke through barricades before time and changed the agreed route.

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