UP government muzzles Press to hide collapse of governance
The incident of the mid-day meal expose and subsequent action of the Uttar Pradesh government to suppress the report by prosecuting the journalist is not a standalone incident.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s action of filing charges against a scribe for exposing the malfunctioning of the mid-day meal scheme in a school in Mirzapur district of the state has caught the attention of the global audience. The highhandedness of the Yogi Adityanath government has been criticised after the video by journalist Pawan Jaiswal was widely shared on social media platforms. After the filing of charges against Jaiswal, he again took to the social media platform to tell the world about the action that was taken against him. The Editors Guild of India demanded the immediate revocation of charges against Jaiswal.
The incident of the mid-day meal expose and subsequent action of the Uttar Pradesh government to suppress the report by prosecuting the journalist is not a standalone incident. In the past ten days, charges have been filed against at least five journalists, with one journalist placed under arrest. Social experts say that the conduct of the government is indicative of its failure to push the governance agenda in the state.
Last week, Santosh Jaiswal, a journalist in Azamgarh district, was arrested by the police after he filmed a student who was made to sweep the floor of a school with a broom. Talking to local media, a friend of the arrested journalist revealed that his fellow scribe was booked on false charges of blackmailing. A group of journalists met the Azamgarh District Magistrate to register their complaint in this regard but their effort was in vain.
Local journalists allege that Santosh was arrested on false charges because he had posted a twitter photograph of a local police officer driving a car without a registration number.
In a separate incident, five journalists were booked by the Uttar Pradesh police after they reported a story from Bijnaur which exposed the atrocity committed against a Dalit family who was being forced to leave the village after they allegedly tried to fetch drinking water without the permission of the upper caste.
Civil rights activists in Uttar Pradesh say the actions of the state government must be looked at as a reflection of its failure to contain misgovernance.
“Yogi Adityanath government is a classic case of a wasted mandate. The governance structure is ineffective. There is dissatisfaction among government employees and common man. The state machinery is struggling to put its act in place. The journalists who exposed the ills of the system are normally appreciated. In this case, the government knows that the rot is deep and to muzzle the press seems a short-cut to manage the situation,” Lucknow based RTI activist Anirban Murty told Asiaville.
Senior journalists in Lucknow also echo the same sentiments.
“The government is trying to manage bad press by way of intimidation. We must also know the fact is that government has been more or less successful in its endeavor as no big media houses have taken up the cause of the journalists arrested yet. The big media banners now refrain from publishing any report which may sour its relationship with the government,” a retired journalist who works as a correspondent for a national news agency told Asiaville on condition of anonymity.