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Posted at: Jan 7, 2018, 3:48 PM; last updated: Jan 7, 2018, 8:12 PM (IST)

Aadhaar expose: FIR against Tribune reporter attack on free press, says Editor’s Guild

Aadhaar expose: FIR against Tribune reporter attack on free press, says Editor’s Guild
Photo for representational purpose only. iStock

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7

Journalists on Sunday condemned an FIR against The Tribune and its reporter over a story that exposed security breach in the Aadhaar scheme.

As criticisms over an FIR by the Unique Identification Authority of India continued to mount, The Editor’s Guild of India, The Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps and Press Association issued separate statements condemning the action as an attack on free press.

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In a statement issued on Sunday, the Editor’s Guild called the FIR an “attempt to browbeat” the reporter.

“The Guild condemns UIDAI’s action to have the Tribune reporter booked by the police as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest. It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press. Instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public,” the statement said, asking the Union Ministry to have cases against the reporter withdrawn and conduct an “impartial investigation” into the incident.

A joint statement by the Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps and Press Association said UIDAI’s FIR was “reflective of its misplace priorities”.

“This move runs counter to the UIDAI's claim that "the Aadhaar data including biometric information is fully safe and secure". If there is no breach, what is the offence they have supposed to have committed?”

“The UIDAI filing criminal complaints against the reporter and her sources is clearly reflective of its misplaced priorities,” the statement said, adding that the actions were “intimidatory, obstructionist and inimical” to free, fair and independent journalism, and demanding withdrawal of the criminal charges.

Patiala Media Club and Sangrur Press Front condemned police action in resolutions passed on Sunday. PMC called the action an attempt to "murder of fourth pillar of democracy" and demanded withdrawal of  the case, as well as action against UIDAI officials.

Sachin Dhanjas, president of the Sangrur Press Front said in a statement: "Its (sic) injustice with all media (sic) as reporter (sic) has done her job honestly and exposed such a big scam. We demand immediate action against UIDAI officers".

Chandigarh Press Club

Chandigarh Press Club condemned police action. A statement issued on Sunday read: “Instead of taking action against people, who were involved in data breach, the Government Agency preferred to lodge FIR against reporter, who exposes the loopholes in the system. In an act of ‘Shoot the messenger’, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had filed an FIR against the reporter of The Tribune for an article on how anonymous users accessed Aadhaar details and sold it for a fee.”

The club also announced it would hold a protest on “Freedom of Press” at 12 pm on Monday.

Press Club Jammu

Strongly condemning the registration of an FIR against a reporter of The Tribune for exposing loopholes in the system through investigating reporting, Press Club of Jammu (PCJ) called this decision as an attempt to gag the media.

In a statement issued here, PCJ strongly condemned the action of UIDAI for lodging an FIR against The Tribune reporter over a story on Aadhar data breach.

Mumbai Press Club

Mumbai Press Club strongly condemns the unilateral action of UIDAI and said this will be treated as nothing short of an attack on the privileges and rights of a free press.

Mumbai Press Club demands an impartial inquiry on the Aadhaar data sale and take action against those involved in the data breach instead of taking action against the journalist who exposed it. 

The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists also condemned the FIR lodged against the journalist and The Tribune.

“The move is a crude attempt by the complainant, i.e. the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to intimidate and silence the reporter and her newspaper for their significant exposé,” it said in a statement. 

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