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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 46 November 5, 2022

India: Statement by DIGIPUB on police searches on the homes of the editors of The Wire (Nov 1, 2022)

Friday 4 November 2022

DIGIPUB News India Foundation

DIGIPUB’s statement on police searches on the homes of the editors and a reporter of The Wire

On 31 October 2022, the Delhi Police searched the homes of The Wire’s editors Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu, Sidharth Bhatia, and Jahnavi Sen, and their office, searching for and seizing laptops, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The searches took place two days after Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Amit Malviya lodged a complaint against them based on which a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against them on charges of cheating and dishonesty (section 420), forgery (section 468), forgery for purpose of harming reputation (469), using a genuine a forged document or electronic record (471), punishment for defamation (500) r/w 120B and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Malviya’s complaint relates to a series of stories published by The Wire about the social media company Meta. The stories claimed that he had special censorship privileges through an Instagram programme called X-Check. On 23 October 2022, The Wire retracted these articles, asserting that it had been deceived by a member of its investigative team.

A journalist or a media organisation that publishes a false report ought to be held accountable by its peers and civil society. But for the police to carry out an immediate and arbitrary search of the media house’s office and its editors’ homes, based entirely on a private complaint of defamation filed by a spokesperson of the ruling party, smacks of mala fide intentions. Moreover, the danger of these searches being used as an excuse to seize and duplicate confidential and sensitive data held by The Wire cannot be dismissed.

While any fair investigation must follow the rule of law, it cannot become a tool to further worsen the already fraught state of journalism in India, which has steadily declined in global indices of media freedom and democracy. We have witnessed numerous recent instances where criminal prosecution and harassment by the police have intimidated and prevented journalists from doing their jobs.

DIGIPUB strongly condemns in no uncertain terms the searches against the editors and reporter of The Wire, which mainly serve the purpose of criminalising and creating a chilling effect against the profession of journalism in India.

Marge Thing, Dhanya Rajendran, Abhinandan Sekhri

Source: Twitter

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