'Not curbing press freedom by filing an FIR against newspaper'

Shooting The Messenger In Aadhaar Breach Case? Reality Check
Aadhaar case against The Tribune reportrer Committed to press freedom, says govt
Author

09 January, 2018

The FIR was filed two days ago by a deputy director of UIDAI, the parent body of the Aadhaar project.

Under fire for filing an FIR against a newspaper for a report highlighting alleged breach in Aadhaar database, UIDAI today said that it respects free speech, including freedom of press, and its police complaint should not be viewed as "shooting the messenger".

The FIR - which also names Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar and Raj, the people contacted during the course of reporting - has been lodged with the Crime Branch's cyber cell under IPC Sections 419 (punishment for cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document), as well Section 66 of the IT Act and Section 36/37 of the Aadhaar Act.

On Monday, Prasad posted on his official Twitter account: "Govt.is fully committed to freedom of Press as well as to maintaining security & sanctity of #Aadhaar for India's development".

"But, all those who have been there in the chain of incident in which the crime has been committed, have to be mentioned, including unknowns in the FIR, so that police can make proper investigation in the interest of justice", the statement said.

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A police complaint against a journalist for breaking a story over vulnerabilities in the Aadhaar database has been criticised by the press as a possible attempt to muzzle journalistic freedom.

"It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press", the Guild said in a statement on Sunday. We're going to write to @thetribunechd & @rachnakhaira to give all assistance to investigate to nab the real culprits. To the best of our understanding, not only journalists are named but The Tribune as an institution has been named in the FIR.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari asked the Centre to withdraw the FIR and said: "This is time for all progressive and right-thinking citizens to stand united against this government, which has created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear".

Journalists in India have increasingly become targets of online smear campaigns, with prosecutorial actions being used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, the group said. "We feel sorry that the authorities are unable to appreciate that a breach has taken place", the newspaper's reply said.


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