FIR filed against UP journalist for 'maligning govt's image'

He allegedly shot video of govt school textbooks lying amid garbage

INDIA-RELIGION/EDUCATION Representational image

An FIR has been filed against a journalist who reported on what he said were books for government schools being dumped amid garbage in a truck.

Shishir Shukla, a Lakhimpur-based journalist, was out for a story when he spotted books in a truck outside a garbage seller’s shop. Upon closer inspection he found that these were books meant for government schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, for the current academic session. Shukla shot a video and sent it to the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) for an official reaction.

The BSA is responsible for overseeing education and related matters such as school uniform, and distribution in government and aided primary schools in a district.

Shukla’s seeking of an official reaction got him an FIR in return, filed by the BSA, Nagendra Choudhary at the Palia Police station under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code.

The details of the said section read, “Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Choudhary’s logic was the journalist had uploaded the video on social media and hence attempted to malign the image of the government.

The FIR, a copy of which is available with The Week, reads: “A video from the Palia market area is being made viral in which, amidst some disordered sacks, in a truck is a bundle of books. The video claims that these are books for free distribution under the SSA which are being sold as garbage. The incident has maligned the image of the basic education department and also the state government.” The BSA also gave the number of the reporter who had sent him the video and filed the FIR against an ‘unknown person’.

Syed Mohammad Haider Rizvi, a prominent Lucknow-based lawyer, has written to the Director General of Police in the matter. He told The Week: “Victimising a journalist who voiced a bonafide concern, by registering an FIR, none of whose contents/sections are applicable in the facts of the case…this act of police is a definite blow to independent journalism, a practice which has been deprecated by the honourable courts all across the country.”

The letter, written on behalf of Shukla by Rizvi, on August 23, notes that this act of the education department not only strikes at children’s right to education but is also a waste of government money. It also says that far from soiling the image of the government, the video actually shows how transparent matters are under the current chief minister.

The letter prays for quick investigation into the matter by police from outside the district as fairness cannot be expected from the local police.

Shukla said, “I have been a journalist for many years, but never have I faced such a serious situation where I am victimised for my work.”

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