The Editors Guild of India on Sunday condemned the First Information Report the Unique Identification Authority of India filed against Rachna Khaira, a reporter for The Tribune. The daily had reported how anonymous sellers, operating through messaging service WhatsApp, were allegedly providing access to details of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar holders.
The journalists’ body said it was concerned about the UIDAI’s action. “The Guild condemns the UIDAI’s action to have The Tribune reported booked by the police, as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest,” it added.
The Editors Guild called the UIDAI action an “unfair, unjustified and direct attack” on the freedom of the press. It said that the body which manages Aadhaar for the Centre should have instead ordered an internal investigation into the alleged breach of data, and published its findings.
“The Guild demands that the concerned Union Ministry intervene and have the cases against the reporter withdrawn, apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter,” the body said.
On January 4, UIDAI had claimed that The Tribune had misreported an article about a breach of biometric data. In a rebuttal to the UIDAI’s accusation, The Tribune had stood by its report, and said the Aadhaar authority, in its response, had in fact admitted to the “misuse” of biometric data.
The Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps and Press Association also condemned FIR against The Tribune.
UIDAI says it is not ‘shooting the messenger’
The UIDAI said the police case was filed because there had been a criminal offence, adding that it respects free speech and supports press freedom.
The central authority said an impression was being created in media that UIDAI “is targeting the media or whistleblowers or shooting the messenger”. In a statement, it said, “This is a case in which even though there was no breach of Aadhaar biometric database, because UIDAI takes every criminal violation seriously, it is for the act of unauthorised access, criminal proceedings have been initiated.”