Shah Scandal: IFJ Condemns Defamation Case Against Journalists

BJP President Amit Shah
BJP President Amit Shah

Now it is being observed that India has become a kakistocracy where the government is under the control of the worst, least qualified, and most unscrupulous people. ~ Rakesh Raman

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By Rakesh Raman

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said it is concerned over the filing of a Rs. 100-crore criminal defamation case against seven persons including the reporter and editors of online news portal The Wire, on October 9.

Businessman Jay Amit Shah – son of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah – has filed the defamation case in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, against reporter Rohini Singh and Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, and MK Venu, editors of the news portal for a report that highlighted a dramatic increase in some of Shah’s businesses since BJP’s Narendra Modi became prime minister of India.

The story, based on annual filings of Shah’s companies with the Registrar of the Companies, was published by The Wire news website.

[ Media Enjoys Freedom in Pakistan, Faces Suppression in India ]

A former Indian minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said that his party has “lost the moral high ground” in the alleged corruption scandal involving Jay Amit Shah.

In an interview with a local TV channel NDTV, Sinha also said the defamation case that Shah has filed against the news site is an attempt by the BJP to “suppress the voice of the media.”

According to the new Vigilance Manual 2017 of India’s top anti-corruption organization Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), corruption is manifested in various forms such as bribery, nepotism, willful action or willful inaction to benefit someone or to deny benefit to someone known or unknown. It also states that corruption includes cases of favoritism and failure to follow laid down processes leading to unintended benefit to someone or denial of benefit to the deserving.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi who is quite vocal about corruption in Modi government said, “We finally found the only beneficiary of Demonetization. It’s not the RBI, the poor or the farmers. It’s the Shah-in-Shah of Demo. Jai Amit.”

The IFJ – which represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries – notes that The Wire sent queries to Shah for clarifications before publication of the story and his lawyer warned against its publication and threatened legal consequences, including to anyone who shared the story.

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The Wire maintains that matters of record in the public domain carried in public interest cannot amount to defamation.

The IFJ said it is concerned over the misuse of the criminal defamation to harass journalists and media to stop them for investigating matters of public interest and publication of critical stories.

“While the IFJ is confident that the court will ensure justice, the trend of filing criminal defamation cases for critical news is a matter of concern as it puts financial and psychological burden on media and journalists; and can create a chilling effect,” the IFJ said in a statement.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a government’s National award-winning journalist and social activist. He has formed an environment-protection group called Green Group in Delhi. Earlier, he had been associated with the United Nations (UN) through United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as a digital media expert to help businesses use technology for brand marketing and business development. He also runs a free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.

Photo courtesy: BJP

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