The Rajasthan police has lodged an FIR against media manager of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and Jaipur based senior journalist for reporting 'phone tapping of Congress MLAs' during their stay in a hotel in Jaisalmer amidst the political crisis in the state.
The Rajasthan Police had lodged the FIR at Jaipur’s Vidhayak Puri police station against Lokendra Singh who is the media manager of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and Sharat Kumar, a Rajasthan based senior journalist working with Aaj Tak news channel.
The FIR was lodged on October 1, 2020, under Sections 505 (1) (whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report), 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and section 76 of the Information and Technology Act (the Act allows police to confiscate any kind of gadget related to information sharing).
The SHO of Vidhayak Puri police station who is also the investigating officer for this case told Outlook, "Police had summoned Lokendra Singh to the police station on Thursday along with his gadgets (laptop , mobile and computer), which were used for the information dissemination of 'phone tapping report'.
I was not the only one to report 'phone tapping' story
"I was the last one to report the 'phone tapping story'. Most of my colleagues had reported the same story. I fail to understand that why the government has singled out one media house in particular", Sharat Kumar, senior journalist with AajTak who has been named in the FIR told Outlook.
The Pilot camp had in August made allegations against Rajasthan’s CM Ashok Gehlot for tapping the phones of his MLAs who were staying at Jaisalmer's Suryagarh hotel. The Gehlot camp had brought his MLAs to Jaisalmer to secure them against horse trading.
However, the FIR is lodged exactly two months after the political crisis in Rajasthan ended with a truce between Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot.
Crisis had kicked off in July 2020, after Sachin Pilot & his camp made an open rebellion against CM Ashok Gehlot.
Activists and BJP slam Gehlot government for attacking on freedom of press
The social activists of Rajasthan have condemned Ashok Gehlot led Congress government for attacking the freedom of press. The statement issued by Kavita Srivastava, President and Anant Bhatnagar, General Secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) states “We condemn the vindictiveness of the Rajasthan Government led by CM Ashok Gehlot, which has sanctioned the lodging of FIR against two senior journalists, Sarat Kumar of Aaj Tak and Lokendra Singh (XYZ news Channel). These two journalists have been targeted for reporting about an alleged phone tapping incident of MLAs who were rounded up in Jaislamer, by the Congress party, during August 2020, when there was an open confrontation between CM Ashok Gehlot Vs Dy CM Sachin Pilot in the months of July and August".
"This is nothing but an attack on free speech governed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution and the rights of privacy of the journalists, which is not just individual privacy but also related to their profession. The PUCL believes that the lodging of FIRs is a clear case of misuse of the power by the political executive, who are using the police authorities under them to criminalise the acts of the journalists", the statement reads.
Meanwhile the opposition BJP slammed Gehlot for suppressing the fourth pillar of democracy. The Rajasthan BJP President Satish Poonia tweeted on Wednesday, "Ashok Gehlot who often talks about the democracy being in danger is now suppressing the fourth pillar of democracy because in past days journalist have raised the voices of deprived and voiceless".