UP Police Files FIR against The Wire, 2 journalists for video on Barabanki mosque demolition

The mosque was demolished by the local authorities on May 17, 2021, an event that was reported at the time by The Wire and other media platforms

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PC: Twitter

The Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday filed a first information report (FIR) against the online news portal, The Wire and two its journalists late on Thursday night for a video report about the alleged illegal demolition of a mosque in Barabanki.

The mosque was demolished by the local authorities on May 17, 2021, an event that was reported at the time by The Wire and other media platforms in India and abroad.

Two journalists of The Wire – Seraj Ali and Mukul S Chauhan — and two others identified as Mohammad Naeem and Mohammad Anees have been named in the FIR.

Last month, the Barabanki district administration had demolished a mosque located inside the Ramsnehi Ghat Tehsil premises. The district administration called it an “illegal structure”. The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board had termed the district administration’s action illegal and moved the Allahabad High Court against it. The matter is currently pending in the High Court.

The video shows local residents describing events leading up to and following what they said was the illegal demolition of the Gareeb Nawaz Al Maroof Mosque mosque in Ram Snehi Ghat, Barabanki. The video also shows The Wire‘s reporter asking to meet the current sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Ram Sanehi Ghat, Jitendra Katiyar, to discuss the case. Katiyar refused to speak about the matter, saying the demolition happened before he took up the post and that he would not be able to comment about it.

The FIR registered by the Barabanki police does not use the word ‘mosque’ and describes the demolished structure instead as an ‘illegal building”. It alleges that tweets about the video posted by The Wire and two of its journalists – Seraj Ali and Mukul Singh Chauhan – on Twitter spread ‘animosity in society’ and ‘disturb communal harmony’. The tweets in question are not identified in the FIR.

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Superintendent of Police (Barabanki) Yamuna Prasad said that Mohammad Naeem, named in the FIR, was the person in the documentary who was making the “false claims about religious books being thrown in the river and drain”.

“The complaint was lodged by a police officer, based on which an FIR has been lodged. Further action is underway,” Prasad added.

The Wire called the charges “baseless” and accused the BJP government of “criminalising the work of journalists who are reporting what is happening in the state”.

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.”

“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. 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 added.

The FIR has been registered under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation 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).

The video in question was shot in Ram Snehi Ghat and published on The Wire‘s YouTube channel on June 22, 2021. It was uploaded as a story on The Wire‘s website and tweeted the next day.

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