The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned Hisar Police in Haryana for lodging an FIR against a journalist on “cyber terrorism” and “promoting communal disharmony” charges for his alleged social media posts.
The Hisar Police has levelled charges against Rajesh Kundu, who runs a news portal.
“The action is an impingement on his right to freedom of speech and expression as well as an ongoing bid by governments to intimidate and harass the media,” the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) said in a statement.
Kundu, who is also working for a TV channel in Hisar district and covering the farmers’ agitation, was booked on Friday over a Facebook post, which was shared on WhatsApp.
The FIR against Kundu was lodged under Sections 153A (promoting communal disharmony) and 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the IPC and Section 66F (cyber terrorism) of the IT Act, 2000.
A complaint against Kundu was lodged by a police spokesperson, Vikram in Hisar, wherein he accused Kundu of preparing “a script for caste-related violence” and alleged that he had worked to “incite common men” while apprehending “adverse impact of post on national integrity”.
Kundu has rubbished the accusation saying he only “performed my duty of a responsible citizen and journalist by sharing a post regarding my apprehension of violence on the occasion of BR Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14 on the basis of information received through sources…”
In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary general Sabina Inderjit demanded that the case be withdrawn immediately as the FIR was merely to “harass the journalist and stifle his freedom of expression”.
The IJU leadership said, “The BJP-ruled Haryana government was indulging in intimidation and harassment of media covering the farmers’ stir and using social media posts as a mere tool.”
The IJU also cautioned the Centre and state governments to refrain from filing FIRs against journalists for their posts on social media as the sinister trend was rising menacingly, which gravely impacted the citizens’ right to information as well as India’s claim to being a vibrant democracy.
“Counter the posts instead, rather than yield the stick,” the IJU advised.