Siddharth Varadarajan.

Uttar Pradesh police has registered an FIR against renowned journalist Siddharth Varadarajan for tweeting a story regarding the death of a protesting farmer during the Republic Day tractor rally.

The Wire‘s founding editor Varadarajan has been booked under Sections 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Varadarajan said the FIR reeks of “malicious prosecution”.

“In UP, it is a crime for media to report statements of relatives of a dead person if they question a postmortem or police version of cause of death,” The Wire quoted Varadarajan as saying.

Earlier, police booked six journalists – India Today’s senior anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, the Caravan magazine’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, its editor Anant Nath and executive editor Vinod K Jose and Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha – for ‘misleading’ tweets on the death of the farmer.

Several media organizations have strongly condemned the FIRs.

“This is a pathetic excuse on the part of the concerned state governments. In a moving story, things change on a regular basis. Accordingly, the reporting reflects the circumstances, when large crowds are involved and the air is thick with suppositions, suspicions, and hypotheses, there can sometimes be a divergence between earlier and later reports. It is criminal to ascribe this to motivated reporting, as is sought to have been done,” the Press Council of India said in a statement.

Earlier in 2020, the UP police registered another case against Varadarajan, also for a tweet.

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