Journalist Rana Ayyub on Saturday said the first information report filed against her in Uttar Pradesh for her fundraising campaigns for Covid-19 and flood relief work was “baseless and malicious”.
Ayyub said that she would not allow “bullying tactics” to stop her from doing relief work “when it is most needed”.
On Tuesday, a Hindutva group named Hindu IT Cell had filed a complaint against Ayyub in Ghaziabad, alleging that she had illegally collected money through an online crowdfunding platform “in the name of charity”.
The group also also accused Ayyub of receiving foreign funds without the government’s approval.
The crowdfunding platform also reportedly told donors about law enforcement agencies informing it that the money was allegedly not used for the intended purpose, according to The Indian Express.
Based on the Hindu IT Cell’s complaint, Ayyub, a vocal critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was charged under Section 4 (punishment for money laundering) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Section 66D of the Information Technology Act (punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resources).
The FIR filed against also included Sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 418 (cheating), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code.
On Saturday, the journalist dismissed these accusations. Ayyub said that “not a single paisa” from the donations had been misused. She added that the donations did not violate any law.
The journalist said: “Further, I have paid a heavy amount of tax on the donations, as directed by the CBDT [Central Board of Direct Taxation], although I believe the donations ought not to have been taxed, so that more money could be used for relief work.”
Ayyub said that the Income Tax Department had examined her accounts and the donations. “A fair investigation will bring out the truth for all.”
The journalist also said that she has been abused online because of the accusations. “Any amount of hate and propaganda will not stop me from pursuing my profession honestly,” she added.
International rights group criticises FIR
An international group founded by actor George Clooney and lawyer Amal Clooney on Saturday said the case against Ayyub seemed to be an attempt to silence and harass her.
“Ms. Ayyub, who is known for her investigative reporting critical of Prime Minister Modi and his government, is facing charges of fraud and money laundering for alleged misuse of funds she received for Covid-19 relief,” The Clooney Foundation for Justice said.
The group said it it will monitor the “multiplying proceedings” Ayyub. The journalist also faces another police case for sharing a video on social media of an attack on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad in June.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice added that the Indian government must respect Ayyub’s freedom of expression and right to a fair trial. “CFJ also calls on the Indian authorities to ensure that any proceedings against her are not a tool of harassment,” it added.