Withdraw FIR against journalist/cartoonist Swathi Vadlamudi”: NWMI

The Network of Women in the Media (NWMI), a forum for women media professionals in the country, has issued a statement condemning the filing of an FIR against journalist and cartoonist Swathi Vadlamudi. According to the statement, the FIR was filed at Hyderabad’s Saidabad police station under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (“deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”). The statement says the FIR was filed by Hindu Sanghatan, an off-shoot of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). 


Vadlamudi’s cartoon, which was published on her Facebook and Twitter pages on April 10 and 11, shows the Hindu gods Ram and Sita discussing “the issue of abduction and violence against women in India. The message in the cartoon does not in any way insult Sita or Ram; instead it poses a question to the public,” the statement says. 

The NWMI has noted that since April 10, Vadlamudi has been targeted with “online abuse by Hindutva groups, where some users have threatened that she will meet the same fate as Gauri Lankesh and the murdered cartoonists of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France,” adding that the Hindu Sanghatan has also filed charges against Times NOW Chennai Deputy Editor Shabbir Ahmed, who shared Vadlamudi’s cartoon on Twitter. According to the NWMI, another cartoonist, Satish Acharya, has also received abuse and death threats. 

The statement has highlighted that Vadlamudi’s cartoon has been shared at least 8,000 times on Facebook, and received several thousand ‘likes’, a clearly indication that it “touched a chord among the Indian public which in the recent past has seen abductions, brutal gang-rapes and murders of women and children in different parts of the country, from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat and elsewhere.” NWMI has stressed the significance of cartoons in the news media, saying they “hold a mirror to the current world in a particularly effective manner that goes beyond what is captured by words (spoken or written), photographs or videos. In a vibrant democracy such an art and the artists who create it should be encouraged to thrive instead of being stifled by hate groups.” 

The NWMI has demanded that the Hyderabad Police should immediately drop all charges against Vadlamudi, Ahmed, and any other individuals against whom cases have been filed in this context. Moreover, it has called on the police to take “prompt action” against anyone abusing Vadlamudi, Ahmed, Acharya, and others. The organisation has also urged the Editors’ Guild of India and the Press Council of India to take suo moto cognisance of such attacks on media professionals, particularly women, and called on them to “come out strongly” to support and defend anyone being attacked. 



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