Haryana Journalists on Saturday, April 10, lodged a strong protest after the Hisar police booked news portal-The Ink-founder Rajesh Kundu under the charges of "cyber terrorism" and "promoting communal disharmony" over a social media post.
Kundu was booked on Friday for a Facebook post that was also shared through WhatsApp. He broadly covered the ongoing farmers' protest and visited several villages of Haryana and the borders of Delhi, where thousands of farmers are protesting against the three farm laws for the past four months.
The First Information Report (FIR) was filed against Kundu under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 153A (promoting communal disharmony) and 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and Section 66 F (cyber terrorism) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, reported The Indian Express.
Kumari Selja, Haryana Congress President, criticised the move and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the case, stating "journalists can't be suppressed with these tactics".
The FIR against Kundu was filed on the complaint of Head constable Vikram.
In his complaint, Vikram stated that Kundu allegedly posted a message on a Whatsapp group on Friday, April 8, that read, "script was ready for instigating caste-related violence in Hisar in a week's time, and a blueprint was ready to implement it at the state and national level".
Vikram said that Kundu had shared the post on Facebook and alleged that Kundu had attempted to "incite common men" while apprehending the "adverse impact of post on national integrity".
Kundu, in his statement, said, "I performed my duty of a responsible citizen and journalist by sharing a post regarding my apprehension of violence on the occasion of B R Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14 on the basis of information received through sources. With this post, I just wanted to alert the people so that such a situation can be averted."
Demanding the cancellation of the case immediately, Kundu also said that there was a misinterpretation of his post by the authorities.
Haryana Journalists Protest
Journalists across Haryana sent memorandums to the authorities, expressing their resentment with the filing of a case against Kundu.
Reportedly, the journalists and social activists staged a protest at the local police station in Uklana. In a memorandum to the authorities in Hisar, the journalists argued that the case against Kundu was not following the law provisions because he performed his civic duty by sharing essential information with the public ahead of time. They also demanded that the matter be dismissed within 48 hours.
Anil Sharma, the Vice-President of the Haryana Working Journalists Union (HWJU), criticised the case stating it was an "attack on the freedom of the press" and called for the dharna if the case was not withdrawn immediately.
Chandigarh Press Club General Secretary Saurbah Duggalhas also condemned the case and said Kundu raised the farmers' voice during the ongoing farmers' protest.
"When the government could not break the ongoing farmer agitation, it lodged an FIR against journalist Rajesh Kundu, who has become a voice of the farmers. Neither this voice can be suppressed nor the farmer agitation," said Randeep Singh Surjewala, a Senior Congress leader.