India: Authorities open defamation cases against three journalists

Authorities in the district of Shahjahanpur opened defamation investigations into Nidhi Suresh, a Newslaundry reporter, Manoj Shukla, a reporter for Bhadas4Media, and Yashwant Singh, an editor for Bhadas4Media on July 4. The International Federation of Journalists urges the state of Uttar Pradesh to stop intimidating members of the press for legitimate reporting.

Police personnel stand in respect during the wreath laying ceremony. Indian police Credit: TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP

The defamation cases against Suresh, Shukla, and Yashwant originate from a complaint filed by Deep Srivastava, a News18 reporter. The police accepted it and filed a First Information Report under Sections 500 and 501 of the Indian Penal Code.

In his complaint, Srivastava claimed that Suresh wrongly accused him of extorting a woman on Twitter. Srivastava then accused Shukla of asserted these claims in reporting by Bhadas4Media.

Suresh defended her actions, arguing that her tweets were taken directly from a report she published in Newslaundry, where she directly quoted the extorted woman referenced in the tweets and her lawyer.

Suresh’s lawyer, Nipun Katyal, argued that the Uttar Pradesh authorities do not have the authority to instigate such investigations without an order by a judicial magistrate due to Supreme Court judgements from 2016 and 2020. Concerningly, India’s defamation legislation allows for civil matters to be handled by criminal law, rather than by civil law.

The use of FIRs to intimiated and silence journalists is becoming a trend within Uttar Pradesh’s police force as last month criminal investigations were also opened into journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, and Mohammed Zubair and the news outlet, the Wire, for supposedely “insulting religious beliefs” and “public mischief”.

The IFJ said: “The IFJ condemns the actions of Shahjahanpur police for impinging upon press freedom. We urge the Indian government to reform the legislation around defamation cases in order to allow journalists to not be convicted in criminal trials for simply doing their jobs.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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