Indian journalist stopped traveling to UK and Italy to talk about bullying

A prominent Indian journalist has failed to obtain an interim order from the Delhi High Court that would have allowed her to travel to Europe to speak about the harassment and intimidation of journalists in the world’s largest democracy.

Rana Ayyub is a leading investigative journalist and fierce critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist ideology of his Bharatiya Janata Party. She was prevented from boarding an international flight at Mumbai airport on Tuesday.

Ayyub was due to travel to London to address a conference organized by the International Center for Journalists or ICFJ and deliver a speech at the editorial meeting of The Guardian April 1 newspaper.

She was then to fly from London to Rome to participate in the Perugia International Journalism Festival, where, as a guest speaker, Ayyub was to deliver a lecture titled “When the State Attacks: Journalism Under Fire in the Biggest democracy,” April 8.

The April 1 programs in the UK were canceled after Ayyub failed to make it to London.

According to Ayyub, the Law Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, issued a summons when she was already at the Mumbai airport to catch the flight to London. Known as the Look Out Circular (LOC), the summons that stopped her flying on Tuesday was linked to an investigation management is conducting into the alleged misuse of donations collected by Ayyub for relief work during the pandemic. of COVID-19. The journalist denies the charges.

Ayyub petitioned the Delhi High Court on Thursday, seeking permission to travel outside India. Following ED’s opposition, however, the court refused to overturn the LOC, meaning she cannot travel overseas at this time. While the court ordered ED to file a status report on its case against Ayyub, the case was scheduled for a rehearing on April 4.

Ayyub, 37, is a freelance journalist who also writes for The Washington Post. She has faced social media harassment, including rape and death threats, from far-right Hindu groups, which mostly started when her book Gujarat Files was published in 2016. In the book, she alleged that officials from the BJP-led government of Gujarat were complicit in an anti-Muslim massacre that rocked the state in 2002.

Ayyub often criticizes the activities of right-wing groups and Hindu political leaders. On social media, far-right Hindu Modi supporters regularly abuse and threaten her for her posts highlighting the [alleged] harassment and persecution of Muslims in India. Attacks on Ayyub have intensified since the ED froze her bank accounts and accused her of money laundering in February.

Ayyub denied the allegation ED made against her. She called the agency’s actions an attempt to intimidate.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover, who represented Ayyub in the Delhi court, said her client was being harassed by ED because she criticized the government.

The Washington Post recently ran a full-page advertisement in favor of Ayyub, saying the free press in India is under attack. In February, human rights experts at the United Nations demanded that the “judicial harassment against him [be] terminated at once.

Media watchdogs have condemned the Indian government’s actions against Ayyub.

“Preventing Rana Ayyub from traveling abroad is another incident in a growing list of unwarranted and excessive actions taken by the Indian government against the journalist,” said Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists. based in New York, in a statement. .

“The Indian authorities must immediately stop all forms of harassment and intimidation against Ayyub.”

Julie Posetti, vice president of global research at the ICFJ and an expert on online attacks against women journalists, said Indian authorities are trying to criminalize Ayyub’s journalism practice.

“Not only is Rana Ayyub subjected to the most prolific orchestrated online violence I have ever seen or studied, but she is facing state-related legal harassment, and now her right to freedom of movement is being violated. These actions are clearly a form of retaliation for his critical reporting and commentary on the ruling BJP party and Prime Minister Modi’s government,” Posetti told VOA.

Ayyub’s attackers want to silence her and isolate her from the international journalism community, Posetti noted.

“But we stand with her and demand that she be allowed to travel to Italy to deliver her keynote speech at the Perugia International Journalism Festival,” she said.

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