The Editors Guild of India on Monday condemned the Uttar Pradesh government for filing a first information report against journalist Pawan Jaiswal for his report on schoolchildren in Mirzapur eating chapatis and salt in their mid-day meal. “It is a cruel and classic case of shooting the messenger,” said the guild, adding that the state government should withdraw the case.
Jaiswal, who works for Hindi newspaper Jansandesh Times, was on Saturday booked for criminal conspiracy. According to the FIR, a “representative” of the village head conspired to get a video of the incident shot by a journalist despite knowing that the cook was short of supplies for the meals.
A video of children eating the meal with chapatis and salt was widely shared on social media on August 23, after which the district administration had ordered an inquiry. Around 100 students of the Siyur primary school in Mirzapur’s Jamalpur block were served this lunch, according to reports. The National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government after taking note of the video.
The Editors Guild said it was shocking that instead of fixing what was wrong, the government took action against the journalist. “Even if the government believes that his report is wrong, there are easy and conventional redresses available,” it said. “Using the IPC and police is no way to respond to this.”
The guild also expressed “grave concern” about restrictions on the overseas travel of journalists. On August 31, Kashmiri journalist and author Gowhar Geelani was stopped by immigration authorities at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport as he was heading to Germany. Geelani, who works as an editor at German media organisation Deutsche Welle, was to attend a training programme in Bonn.
“The law does indeed give the government such powers but only in the rarest of rare cases and following due procedure and disclosure,” said the guild. “There must be transparency in these decisions.”
Below is the full statement by the Editors Guild of India:
The Editors Guild of India condemns the Uttar Pradesh government’s action of filing an FIR under serious sections of criminal law against journalist Pawan Jaiswal for his report that mere rotis and salt were being served to school children as their lawfully guaranteed mid-day meal in Siyur primary school, Mirzapur.
It is a cruel and classic case of shooting the messenger. It is precisely exposés such as these that show how valuable free and fearless journalists are to a democratic society. It is shocking that instead of taking action to fix what is wrong on the ground, the government has filed criminal cases against the journalist. Even if the government believes that his report is wrong, there are easy and conventional redresses available. Using the IPC and police is no way to respond to this.
The Guild urges that the state government withdraw these cases forthwith and ensure that the journalist is not put to any further harm or harassment.
The Guild also expresses grave concern over recent incidents of restrictions on the overseas travel of journalists. The latest being the denial of travel permission at the airport for journalist Gowhar Geelani, who works for a German media organisation. The law does indeed give the government such powers but only in the rarest of rare cases and following due procedure and disclosure. There must be transparency in these decisions.
The Guild urges the government not to create a situation where the constitutionally and legally mandated freedoms of media representatives are compromised.
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.