Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Uttar Pradesh government authorities to drop their criminal investigations into journalists Nidhi Suresh, Manoj Shukla, and Yashwant Singh, and cease harassing members of the press over their work.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, non-profit organisation based in the US that promotes press freedom worldwide.
On 4 July, police in the state’s Shahjahanpur district launched criminal defamation investigations into Nidhi Suresh, a reporter at the news website Newslaundry, as well as Manoj Shukla,, a reporter, and Yashwant Singh, an editor, both at the news website Bhadas4Media.
If convicted, Suresh, Shukla, and Singh could face up to two years in prison and an unspecified fine under the Indian Penal Code.
“While criminal defamation codes should never be used against journalists, it is especially galling to see such laws wielded by fellow members of the press,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator in Washington, D.C.
“Uttar Pradesh authorities should drop their investigations into journalists Nidhi Suresh, Manoj Shukla, and Yashwant Singh, and India should reform its defamation statutes so that disputes are handled by civil and not criminal law,” he added.
The police registered the FIR against Nidhi Suresh pursuant to a defamation complaint filed by journalist Deep Srivastava, after she had written a report containing allegations of a woman named Ayesha Alvi that she was harassed by the journalist Srivastava after her conversion to Islam.
In his criminal complaint, Srivastava alleged that Nidhi Suresh falsely accused him of extorting a woman, and that Shukla then repeated those accusations in reporting by Bhadas4Media.
Nidhi told CPJ that her tweets were extracts from a report she published in Newslaundry quoting the alleged extortion victim and their lawyer.
According to Nidhi’s lawyer, Nipun Katyal, the Shahjahanpur district police did not have the authority to launch the investigations in the first place, saying that 2016 and 2020 Supreme Court judgements ruled that such investigations require an order by a judicial magistrate.