Scroll’s Supriya Sharma booked over story on Varanasi woman’s lockdown ‘misery’

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An FIR was registered on 13 June at Varanasi’s Ramnagar police station against Scroll’s Executive Editor Supriya Sharma and its Chief Editor. It is over a report published from Varanasi’s Domari village. The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by Mala Devi, a woman from Domari village in Varanasi. The FIR was filed under IPC sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease danger­ous to life), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and under the SC/ST Act.

Supriya Sharma interviewed Mala as part of a series from Varanasi district on the impact of the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Domari village, which falls in Varanasi constituency, was adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. The FIR was slammed by many journalists blaming the police and the BJP-led government for attempting to curb the freedom of the press. Every time a journalist is intimidated, the name of Gauri Lankesh comes to our minds. If a critical story which criticizes the govt. is suppressed, it is an attack on the independent press. No wonder why India’s rank slips down every year in the World Press Freedom Index.

The Conundrum

According to the Scroll’s report, Mala is a domestic worker and experienced food distress during the lockdown since she did not have a ration card. Mala Devi alleges that the journalist misquoted her, according to the police sources. Addition to this, she says that she is no domestic worker but a a sanitation worker with Varanasi city municipality through outsourcing.

During the lockdown, neither me or anyone in my family faced any problems. By saying that me and children went hungry, Supriya Sharma had made fun of my poverty and caste.
-The FIR quotes Mala Devi

Scroll.in released in a statement saying, “Scroll.in interviewed Mala in Domari village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on 5 June 2020. Her statements have accurately been reported in the article titled, ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown’”.

Reporters Without Borders is an organisation that promotes the cause of press freedom around the world. It strongly condemned the action by the Uttar Pradesh police. Supriya is a two-time Ramnath Goenka award winner and a recipient of the Chameli Devi Outstanding Woman Journalist award for 2014-15. No one believes that, she could be wrong as she is such an excellent journalist. Many journalists and others took on social media to show their solidarity to Sharma. It is believed to be a tactical intimidation by the incumbent government.

Written by Ayushman Ojha, a Journalism student at Delhi School of Journalism, Delhi University. Covers Politics, Education and International Affairs.

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