Five journalists, including three out on bail in a corruption case, have been booked under the Gangster Act after they allegedly circulating fake news on their portals, reports Times of India.
According to the reports, the Uttar Pradesh police have booked five journalists in Noida after they had attempted to put pressure on cops in connection with the corruption case that is already in court.
The journalists had published a series of ten news article, which cops claims that were motivated. One such news article accused the SSP of giving caste-based promotions to cops in Gautam Budh Nagar.
Reportedly, the five journalists who were booked are Sushil Pandit, Udit Goel, Raman Thakur, who are from Gautam Budh Nagar, Chandan Rai from Sahibabad and Nitish Pandey from Lucknow. The police officials said that Raman Thakur is on the run and police have announced a reward of Rs.25,000 on his head, while the police arrested the others on Friday night.
However, the journalists have denied the allegations against them. They said that the police should have sent them a notice if they had any objections to the news articles.
“We are being framed in a baseless case. If the police had issues with our articles, they should have given us notices and we would have produced evidence to prove our points. But they misused their power to book us under the Gangster’s Act. We will challenge them in court,” said Rai.
On Saturday, District Magistrate BN Singh and Noida police chief Vaibhav Krishna speaking to the press said that the inter-state criminals were posing as journalists.
“The accused would give lucrative offers to senior police officers to get their job done. If the cops declined, they would broadcast unverified and motivated news against these officers,” Krishna said.
“The accused had recently carried news that the Lucknow SSP and I had deployed some officers as SHOs on the basis of their caste and under the instructions from a political party. Both Pandey’s and Rai’s web portals carried the news. They also accused police of being involved in sand mining,” he said.
Nitish Pandey runs policenewsup.com, Rai is the owner of policemedianews.com. Pandit runs sansaniindia.com, while Goel owns grenoexress.com.
The officer said that Goyal, Thakur and Pandit were arrested on January 30 for plotting with a Noida Police inspector to extract Rs 8 lakh from a fake call centre operator. “They were out on conditional bail and carrying fake news to influence a sub-judice matter,” Krishna said. The offices of these web portals have been seized.
Meanwhile, the district magistrate has also clarified that the administration is not against journalists or freedom of expression but claimed that the accused would operate as a gang. “The postings of SHOs were done purely on the basis of merit and I also had a say in it. The accused were ganging up against police in order to get relief in a sub judice matter, which is why they are being charged under the Gangster Act,” said Singh.
The ‘journalists’ have been remanded in five days’ police custody. The accused were produced before a magistrate on Saturday. The magistrate has granted our appeal for a five days’ police remand, the police said.