The Editors Guild of India on Sunday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for impeding the work of journalists and surveilling the phones of reporters covering the Hathras gangrape. The statement came after the phone conversation of a reporter with a member of the woman’s family was leaked.
“The Editors Guild Of India condemns the manner in which the law enforcement agencies of the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, have prevented media persons from reporting on developments in and around Hathras after a brutal assault on a woman leading to her death and the hurried cremation of her body by the authorities without the presence of the family of the deceased,” the organisation said in a statement.
The association said this was the “worst such case in the scale of interference”. “Equally reprehensible is the way the government has tapped the telephones of journalists engaged in covering the Hathras incidents,” the statement read. “Worse, the tapped conversation of the journalists has been selectively leaked, leading to a social media calumny against them.”
The Editors Guild also highlighted that reporters were not being allowed to visit the spots where the incident occurred, adding that it undermined and obstructed the functioning of the media. “The Guild demands that the government creates conditions in Hathras that do not obstruct journalists in any way,” the statement added.
The group also raised concern about this being the latest in a series of attacks against the media. “A few other state governments have also indulged in such harassment of journalists,” it said. “The guild condemns these and demands corrective action.”
A political controversy has erupted over an audio clip that appeared on a pro-government website and on social media purported to be of a telephone conversation between India Today reporter Tanushree Pandey and the brother of the woman who died earlier this week after she was gangraped by upper-caste men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district.
The television channel on Friday issued a statement asking the government to explain how a conversation by one of its journalist, who was covering the case, was leaked online. The media group questioned why the woman’s family was kept under surveillance and the legal basis for recording and leaking the telephonic conversations.
In the clip, Pandey was heard asking the woman’s brother to send her a video statement of the father that he was being forced to go to the local police station and sign a document that claimed they were “satisfied by the police probe” in the case.
Pandey referred to a video of the father shared by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi. “We are not satisfied with this,” the father said, as per a video shared by Gandhi on Twitter. “My daughter’s case should be probed by the CBI and monitored by a Supreme Court judge. We are under pressure from officials and confined to our home while the media has also been disallowed from meeting us.”
Scroll.in was not able to independently verify the audio clip.
The Bharatiya Janata Party claimed the alleged audio showed how the media was “misreporting” facts about the case and was coercing false statements out of the woman’s family.
Media, politicians barred from Hathras
Hathras was turned into a fortress as thousands of policemen guarded the district’s borders on Friday and put up barricades about two kilometres from the village to prevent anyone from entering the area. The woman’s family has alleged that their phones have been confiscated and they have been virtually placed under house arrest, with their outdoor movements confined.
Hathras Additional Superintendent of Police Prakash Kumar told PTI on Friday that no politician or media person will be allowed entry into the woman’s village in Hathras until the Special Investigation Team formed by the Uttar Pradesh government completes its investigation.
Meanwhile, a secretly recorded video of the Hathras District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar showed him issuing a veiled threat to the Dalit woman’s father, asking him to soften his stance. The father has accused the Adityanath-led dispensation of putting pressure on them.
The Allahabad High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the Hathras gangrape case and directed top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government and the police to appear before it on October 12.
Large-scale protests have erupted across the country to demand justice for the 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died earlier this week, a fortnight after she was gangraped four upper-caste men. Politicians and citizens have severely criticised the high-handedness of the police, especially after they cremated the woman’s body against her family’s wishes. The case has now been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.