Cops want to question the messenger, not answer questions raised?

Delhi Police summons Indian Express journalist for reporting on allegedly doctored audio clip of Tablighi Jamaat chief Saad

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The case of a provocative audio message, allegedly by Tablighi Jamaat Markaz head Maulana Saad, continues to navigate fresh twists and turns. A recent article in the Indian Express had revealed that the ongoing Police probe had indicated that the audio clip was “doctored’. Now the Police have gone after the senior journalist who wrote the story.

The Delhi Police, via its Public Relations Officer, had called the article “factually incorrect… purely conjectural”.  Its official twitter handle posted this on May 9: “The Indian Express report dated 9.5.20 with an article captioned: Tablighi FIR: Police probe indicates Saad audio clip was doctored – Written by Mahender Manral, is not only factually incorrect but seems to be based on wholly unverified sources and purely conjectural imagination.”

The police stated that, “The claims made by the reporter regarding the investigation are totally baseless. The Delhi Police does not in any way stand by the story of the reporter, nor has he spoken to any official sources  claimed in his report.”

A day later, Delhi Police told the reporter, Mahender Singh Manral to join the probe whenever asked to. The police also emailed a notice to the Indian Express’s City Editor and Chief Reporter, letting them know that the reporter was required to join the probe from Monday onwards. This report of police action this Sunday was published by the Indian express itself, the notice states the report has warned that the reporter can also ‘face legal action under Indian Penal Code Section 174 — it can result in a prison term and fine.’

The notice, stated the latest report, was sent on the same day that The Indian Express published “the Delhi Police’s rejoinder with its own response that the report was based on conversations with sources and officials aware of the probe against Maulana Saad, and that calls and a message to Special CP (Crime) Praveer Ranjan Friday for his comments before publication received no response.”

Now Manral, the journalist, has been warned of legal action “under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, invoking powers of a police officer to require attendance of witnesses, by Inspector Satish Kumar, Investigating Officer, SOS-I, Crime Branch.” The alacrity of this action has not gone unnoticed, and Manral’s is colleague Abhishek Angad flagged the issue: “Colleague @mahendermanral summoned, threatened with legal action in case he doesn’t join the investigation after his story on Tablighi FIR. Remind me if Delhi Police also sent a notice like this in ISIS story of the missing JNU student.”

The Delhi Police inspector in charge has asked the Indian Express Special Correspondent Mahender Singh Manral “to appear before him Monday and produce all relevant documents/material required for the purpose of investigation” and to “disclose all the facts” relevant to the investigation.”

Of course the journalist is now expected to appear before the Police whenever called and “join the investigation of the case as and when required”. Failure to do so at any level, and for whatever reason puts him at risk of legal action under IPC Section 174.

The Indian Express had reported that an “initial investigation by the Delhi Police Crime Branch” indicated that the audio clip allegedly of  Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, which is mentioned in the police FIR against him, could have been “doctored” and “stitched together using several audio files”. The reports quotes reliable sources, and stated that all the audio clips, and the main audio clip were being forensically examined.

The Indian express, meanwhile printed a response and said it stood by its report.

On Monday the paper reported the removal of a study by Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D), a Union Home Ministry think tank on “how to spot and investigate” fake news, which red-flagged the targeting of minorities over the Covid pandemic. According to the IE report, the  40-page “guide for law enforcement agencies” was uploaded on the official website Saturday and removed Sunday.

This report had mentioned the controversial audio of the Tablighi Jamaat chief, “in its discussion on fake audio.” The  BPR&D spokesperson Jitendra Yadav told IE that: “There are some corrections being made in the booklet. It will be uploaded again after that.”


Will the hate mongering against India’s Muslim community stop if Tablighi head’s viral audio clip turns out to be doctored?
Communal forces using Covid-19 as fodder to target minorities?
Is the charge of criminal conspiracy against Tablighi members justified?



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