FIR In UP Against News Site Over Documentary On Mosque Demolition

On Tuesday, the Allahabad High Court had issued a notice to the UP government after the Sunni Waqf Board filed a petition, challenging the demolition of the mosque and seeking its restoration.

Barabanki Mosque Demolition: Officials maintain all due process was followed.

Highlights

  • Authorities described the mosque as "unauthorised structure"
  • The FIR also names two journalists working with the website
  • 'The Wire' has said it will "not be intimidated"
Lucknow:

Days after a case was filed against online news platform - 'The Wire' - and several others over tweets linked to the assault of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad, the state police have filed another case against the news website - this time in Barabanki. In the FIR (first information report) filed over a documentary on the demolition of a mosque in Barabanki, which the authorities describe as an "unauthorised structure", the news website has been accused of "promoting enmity" and holding an "intent to cause riot".

"The news portal shared a video documentary on their Twitter handle on June 23 that makes baseless and false statements. The video makes illogical arguments, including that the administration defiled the religious texts of a particular religion and threw then into a drain. Nothing of this sort happened. The Wire has tried to spread discord in the society by saying these things and tried to spread communal disharmony," Barabanki District Magistrate Adarsh Singh said in a video statement on Twitter. The district is about 30 km from state capital Lucknow.

Apart from the naming the news portal, the FIR also names two journalists working with the website. The case has been filed under sections like "intent to cause riot", "promoting enmity on the grounds of religion" and "criminal conspiracy".

In a statement, The Wire's founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan said the portal will "not be intimidated" and that this case, like three others previously filed by the UP police in different matters, is "baseless".

On Tuesday, the Allahabad High Court had issued a notice to the UP government after the Sunni Waqf Board filed a writ petition, challenging the demolition of the mosque and seeking its restoration.

While issuing the notice, a two-judge bench of the court observed that "these petitions prima facie raise important questions, inter alia, as to the existence of a mosque on public utility land, if it is so, as also, with regard to (the) exercise of power by state authorities under Section 133 Cr.P.C. and other related provisions, its scope, especially the allegations of malafide exercise of power and the manner in which it has been done, as alleged by the petitioners."

The Barabanki district administration has maintained that they demolished an "illegal construction", and that all due process was followed before the demolition.

"The Adityanath government does not believe in media freedom and is criminalising the work of journalists who are reporting what is happening in the state. In UP, politicians and anti-social elements can openly spew communal hatred and advocate violence, but the police never see these actions as a threat to communal harmony and law and order," Siddharth Varadarajan said in his statement.

"But when journalists report the statements of people who allege wrongdoing on the part of the administration - in this case, the allegation is of the illegal demolition of a mosque - FIRs are immediately filed," he added.

Last week, a case was filed against "The Wire", several other journalists - including Rana Ayyub and Saba Naqvi - and some Congress leaders for allegedly sharing "misleading" tweets linked to the attack of an elderly man - Abdul Samad. Twitter was also named in the FIR. This was the first case against the social media giant after the government's new rules for online news publishers were implemented.

Tweets were shared with a clear motive to "provoke communal sentiments", said the FIR, adding that the "misleading" posts were re-tweeted by thousands of people. The complaint further said Ghaziabad Police had "put out a clarification" via their Twitter handle on Monday night, but the users did not delete the posts and Twitter took no action to remove them.