September 3, 2019

Indian reporter charged with defamation for exposing poor school meals

Pawan Jaiswal released a video on the 2nd of September - here in screenshot - to explain his reasons for reporting on the issue after a local official contacted him (photo: Twitter).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the complaint brought yesterday by the education ministry in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh against a journalist who filmed primary school students being fed a very inadequate midday meal. The complaint must be withdrawn at once, RSF said.

Pawan Jaiswal, a reporter for the Hindi-language Jansandesh Times, is accused of “conspiracy to defame” the Uttar Pradesh government because he posted a video of children at a school in a rural part of Mirzapur district being fed nothing but roti (grilled flatbread) with salt for lunch.


In a follow-up video yesterday, Jaiswal said a local official had told him about the inadequate school meals, and that he had notified the school’s authorities that he was coming to film. An official enquiry has confirmed the facts reported in the first video and, as a result, two members of the school’s staff have been fired.


But the Uttar Pradesh authorities have not withdrawn the complaint against Jaiswal, which means he could be arrested at any time.


“We urge the Uttar Pradesh authorities, starting with First Minister Yogi Adityanath, to immediately drop these proceedings against Pawan Jaiswal, who just did his job as a journalist,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This is clearly an attempt to intimidate a reporter who acted in the public interest. The ‘criminal conspiracy’ charge is a disgrace.”


Journalists demonstrated in support of Jaiswal in the city of Mirzapur this morning.


India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.