Against victimization of journalist Rahul Singh by Gujarat government sign now

We, accredited journalists, editors, employees of a variety of media-houses, and citizens of India, wish to bring to notice an issue of alarming concern.

The actions of the Gujarat government in the Lunavada exhumation case, which has resulted in the harassment of journalist Mr. Rahul Singh, simply for having conducted his job as a journalist, raise serious questions about the freedom of the press.

Remains of men, women, and children killed in the Pandharwada massacre during the Gujarat riots were found in 2005, piled one on top of the other, with their clothes and shoes on, in a shallow pit off the Paanam river, near Lunavada, in Godhra district. While no action has been taken against the perpetrators of this horrific incident, Rahul Singh, the journalist who worked independently and responsibly for two weeks to collect information and bring the story of mass dumping of these bodies to light, is being victimized by the Gujarat government.

Mr. Rahul Singh, who presently resides in New Delhi as a journalist with Headlines Today, was employed by Sahara TV when he investigated and brought to light the story of mass burials near Lunavada in late 2005.

As per the available information, Mr. Singh has been booked under IPC sections 114, 192, 193, 201, 295A. The applications of sections 114, 192, and 193, and 201 on a journalist in this case represent a direct attack on press freedom.

As for section 201, we have learned from Mr. Singh that he had painstakingly investigated and corroborated the truth of the dumping of bodies and bore witness as a journalist to the moments when victims families and religious leaders gathered to exhume the bodies. Victim families and leaders never objected to Mr. Singhs presence at the time.

In terms of section 295A, even if one were to follow the absurd argument that exhumation of dumped remains from a shallow pit by victims families, who had been seeking information about their loved ones for years, ended up hurting religious sentiments 5 years after the event, how is a journalist who recorded the event and didnt physically take part in the exhumation or even personally publish the story, be held liable for hurting religious sentiments.

Is it not Mr. Singhs responsibility as a journalist to tell stories to the best of his knowledge and ability? Why does the Gujarat government need to go beyond involving Mr. Singh as a witness? Why has it made him a co-accused? Will, tomorrow, any journalist covering any story that does not suit the interests of an insecure government, be made a co-accused at a later date and become enmeshed in its political machinations? If this is not censorship, then what is it? Such intimidation can only serve to prevent journalists from doing their work without fear or favour.

In light of the above, and with knowledge of the recent history of the Gujarat government in quelling dissenting voices, we approach the enlightened citizens of India and the union government to consider the matter as a grave violation of press freedom and not something that only concerns one individual. We are acutely aware that tomorrow, any one of us could be Rahul Singh. And, that is why we urge the union government to use its powers to summarily withdraw the charges leveled on Mr. Rahul Singh.

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Marylou FrederickBy:
TelecommunicationsIn:
Petition target:
Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh

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