Stop targeting Rana Ayyub, global press body tells Indian authorities

Rana Ayyub

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Indian authorities to intervene to end the hate campaigns against journalist Rana Ayyub after another spurious criminal complaint against her set off a new wave of online harassment, intimidation, and even physical threats.

The Ghaziabad Police in Uttar Pradesh has registered an FIR against Rana Ayyub after online crowdfunding platform Ketto sent an email to those who donated money to campaigns started by her, saying they had been informed by the “Indian law enforcement agencies” that the funds were “not utilised for the purpose for which they were raised.” The case was prompted by a complaint from the Hindu IT Cell co-founder. Hindu IT Cell is an obscure group linked to Hindu nationalism.

Rana Ayyub, a journalist who is the bugbear of the Hindu nationalist movement, was named by Time Magazine as one of ten journalists facing the ‘most urgent’ threats to press freedom around the world.

“For the past three years, each cyber-harassment nightmare for Rana Ayyub has begun the same way, with one or several Hindu nationalist activists publishing false information about her or bringing a spurious complaint against her,” reads the RSF’s statement.

“We call on the authorities in New Delhi to urgently intervene to protect Rana Ayyub and to ensure that those orchestrating the hate campaigns against her are prosecuted,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“The passivity of the Indian authorities with regard to the repeated attacks targeting this journalist is such that they will be held responsible for any physical violence against her. The nightmare to which she is being subjected must end,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Ayyub last week said the FIR lodged by UP Police against her was “malicious and baseless,” and that no FIR can stop her from “speaking truth to power.”

“The Hindu IT Cell has lodged a malicious and baseless FIR against me in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that I have fraudulently taken donations on Ketto for Covid relief work. I have been defamed, trolled and abused online on the basis of this allegation. For the record, I wish to inform everyone that the entire donation received through Ketto is accounted for, and not a single paisa has been misused. The receipt of donations did not violate any law,” reads the statement of Rana who is also a Washington Post Global Opinions writer.

The journalist who is the bugbear of the Hindu nationalist movement, went on to say: “Further, I have paid a heavy amount of tax on the donations, as directed by the CBDT, although I believe the donations ought not to have been taxed so that more money could be used for relief work. Such donations are exempt from taxes as per the policy and law of the land, and I am taking necessary steps in that regard with the CBDT. My accounts and the donations have both been scrutinised by the IT Department, and a fair investigation will bring out the truth for all.”