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UP Police file FIR against The Wire journalists for documentary on mosque demolition

Accusing a group of journalists of spreading hate and intending to incite religious violence in the state, Barabanki police filed an FIR against news agency The Wire after the online portal shared a video over the demolition of a mosque by the district administration. 

The Wire’s 2 journalists named Seraj Ali and Mukul S Chauhan along with 2 others- Mohammed Naeem and Mohammed Anees- were mentioned in the FIR lodged after receiving a complaint from a police officer, cops said. 

The FIR was met with strong criticism by the news portal that called the charges “baseless”. The Wire said the BJP government was “criminalizing the work of journalists” who are bringing the state events to light.  

The incident was a result of the news agency’s video documentary posted on June 23rd that covered the demolition news of a mosque situated inside the Ramsnehi Ghat Tehsil premises. It was destroyed last month by the district administration calling it an “illegal structure”, facing accusations from the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board who said the act was illegal and wrong. The board moved the Allahabad High Court in the matter though the case is still pending to be heard. 

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Defending the police and its FIR, the Barabanki District Magistrate Adarsh Singh released a statement on Thursday night alleging that The Wire’s video documentary shared on Twitter had “false and baseless information”. The list of events that were mentioned in the video did not take place, he claimed, “The video contains several wrong and baseless statements, including the one which says that the administration and police threw religious scriptures in drain and river. This is false. Nothing of this sort happened. With misinformation like this, The Wire is trying to spread animosity in society and disturbing communal harmony.” 

Mohammed Naeem, one of the persons named in FIR, had made the “false claims about religious books being thrown in the river and drain”, Superintendent of Police (Barabanki) Yamuna Prasad said adding that they will be taking further action in the case. 

However, slamming the accusations and threatening acts of the police, Siddharth Varadarajan, the Founding Editor of The Wire, said, “This is the fourth FIR filed by the UP Police in the past 14 months against The Wire and/or its journalists and each of these cases is baseless. 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.” 

He added that UP is the state where many politicians and anti-social elements openly spew communal hatred and nothing is done about it. Several of them promote violence and even practice it, yet “the police never see these actions as a threat to communal harmony and law and order. 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. The Wire is not going to be intimidated by these tactics,” he said. 

The news agency and its journalists have been booked under sections 153 (provoking people with intent to cause riot), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (1) (b) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.