Reporters Pritipalsibh Gohil, Mahedrasinh Jadeja and Imran Hothi, along with photographer Prakash Ramesh, conducted a ‘sting’ operation in connection with a fire at the Intensive Care Unit of a designated Covid-19 hospital in Rajkot in November that killed five patients. Police alleged the reporters and photographer entered the prohibited lockup room without seeking permission.
The next day, on December 2, the journalists published a news report in the Divya Bhaskar daily newspaper alleging that the three suspects arrested in connection with the hospital fire were given special treatment and held in the police staff room instead of the usual cell. The report included photos of the cell and the police station. Videos were also circulated by the reporters on social media.
The FIR was registered under Indian Penal Code Sections 114 and 186, for the obstruction of a public servant in discharge of public functions and the presence of an abettor when the offence was committed, as well as the provisions of the Information Technology Act. The document accused the journalists of displaying “secret police works” in print and online.
NUJ- I president Ras Bihari said: “The FIR against journalists is just a bullying tactics against them. The NUJ (I) condemn the FIR, urges the Gujarat government to withdraw the case and release journalist.”
The IJU president Geetartha Pathak said: “Taking action against Journalists for their coverage of police station including lock up rooms is sheer violation of the apex courts order issued in December 3, 2020. Therefore, the IJU demands immediate withdrawal of the FIR against the journalists.”
The IFJ said: “The registering of an FIR against Gohil, Jadeja, Hothi and Ramesh is the latest attempt of Indian authorities to quash legitimate reporting on issues of public concern. The IFJ condemns the allegations made against the four reporters and calls for the implementation of safeguards to allow crucial investigative journalism to continue unabated.”