RSF urges the UN to take immediate action against escalating threats and harassment targeting Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) formally triggered the United Nations (UN) about the situation of Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi, requiring immediate action to guarantee her safety and protection. The urgent appeal, detailing the threats and harassment the 2018 RSF Prize for Courage laureate is being subjected to, is addressed to the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, on extrajudicial executions, and on violence against women.

Throughout the past two weeks, as her contact details have been revealed on public WhatsApp groups, Swati Chaturvedi and her parents have been victims of a wave of harassment, intimidation, and hundreds of calls and messages containing rape and death threats. RSF is seriously concerned that these threats will not remain virtual. A dead cat has for instance been left at her doorstep.

The escalation of harassment and threats against the Indian journalist was triggered by a parliamentary speech delivered by MP Nishikant Dubey on 7 August 2023. Dubey alleged that the news outlet NewsClick was being financially supported by China to tarnish India's reputation. On that occasion, Dubey named Chaturvedi as one of the individuals purportedly involved in this scheme to defame India. This assertion was broadcast nationally on television, attracting widespread attention.

“We call on the UN to take urgent and resolute action with the Indian authorities to guarantee Mrs. Chaturvedi’s safety, and to ensure the authors of these threats are identified and prosecuted. We also call on the Indian authorities to immediately take all necessary steps to put an end to such attacks against journalists, and in particular women journalists who are the main targets of such horrendous acts. It is the responsibility of the Indian authorities to protect Mrs. Chaturvedi.

Antoine Bernard
Director, Advocacy and Assistance

The repetitive and violent nature of these threats coupled to prior materialisation of death threats against journalists in India give RSF serious reasons to fear that the journalist is at imminent risk of gender-based violence and extrajudicial killing. For that reason, RSFformally sent, on 24 August 2023,  an urgent appeal addressed to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, extrajudicial executions, and violence against women. RSF also addressed a formal letter to the Indian Minister of Home Affairs.

This incident does not constitute the first time that Chaturvedi has been subjected to harassment, defamation, and threats that severely curtail her freedom of expression, besides severely compromising her safety. In 2018, RSF had already alerted the UN Special Procedures to guarantee the journalist’s safety. 

Chaturvedi has been consistently subjected to online threats and hate campaigns ever since the publication of her bestseller I am a Troll - Inside the BJP’s secret digital army in 2016. The book unveiled her extensive investigation into how the Bharatiya Janata Party (“Indian People's Party”), Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, orchestrated social media campaigns to promote their ideological agenda.

India is ranked 161 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.

159/ 180
Score : 31.28
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