The Chhattisgarh government has issued a show-cause notice to a journalist in Bastar for allegedly publishing a report that “damaged the image of the administration”. The notice, dated April 26, asked Neeraj Shivhare of Bastar ki Aawaz to appear before the authorities in Dantewada and provide an explanation for his article.
The report that the notice referred to is an article from April 25, where a woman from Geedam said she was forced to sell household items to buy rations amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus. The woman said that her husband, a driver, has been out of work for more than a month, due to which there is no money to feed their four children. The woman told the journalist that she initially sold smaller household items but later had to sell her fridge for Rs 2,000. The family had received no help from the administration.
The notice said that Shivhare had published the report without complete information. “Given that the whole country is facing the coronavirus pandemic, this kind of post spreads fear among the people and spoils the image of the administration,” the notice said. It also threatened to file an FIR against him for the act that amounts to a “punishable offence”.
Ashutosh Bhardwaj, a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study and a former journalist, shared the government’s notice on Twitter and added that the woman stood by the interview but the “district administration is still hounding him”.
There have been several instances of journalists being punished for doing their jobs lately. In Tamil Nadu, the police in Coimbatore city arrested the founder of a news website last week for publishing reports on the problems being faced by government healthcare professionals amid the coronavirus pandemic and alleging corruption by employees of a public distribution system outlet.
Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, the founder of SimpliCity, was arrested after a complaint by a Coimbatore Corporation official, who alleged that the reports published by the website were false and against the Tamil Nadu government. The complainant said that he found the “false reports” by the news platform on social media.
In Mumbai, ABP correspondent Rahul Kulkarni was arrested on April 15 in connection with a mass protest by migrants. On April 14, over 1,000 migrant labourers had gathered outside Bandra West station in Mumbai, believing they could travel home by train. Kulkarni was arrested for claiming that Railways would restart operations ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on extension of the lockdown imposed in the country to combat the coronavirus till May 3. The police suspected the journalist’s claim may have prompted the migrants’ gathering at Bandra station.