Siddharth Varadarajan had shared a blatant bit of fake news on 31st March, with a clear intent to malign the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath. Neither did his portal, nor did he himself care to do so much, as to ‘apologize’ for the clearly motivated lie which was spread by them. A mere rectification/updation of a news story, which is premised on a lie, can be no substitute for an apology.
On 31st last month, the American citizen, who happens to work in India, tweeted this:
On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held, Adityanath insisted a large Ram Navami fair planned for Ayodhya from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual and that ‘Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus”. https://t.co/rO09bSkHSe via @TheWire_in
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) March 30, 2020
Varadarajan was seen monkey-balancing, and as a result, whitewashing the misdeeds of the Tablighi Jamaat by equating it to the Ram Navami festivities in Ayodhya, which by the way, were cancelled, because religion can never come over public health and security in times of a global pandemic. Yet, he persisted upon maligning Yogi Adityanath, attributing a fake quote to the Chief Minister.
He quoted Yogi as saying, “Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus”.
This statement was made by one Swami Paramhans, who, according to The Wire and its incompetent editor, is the head of the Ram Mandir Trust, which again, is a lie.
UP Police had registered an FIR against Varadarajan for attributing a fake quote to the Uttar Pradesh CM and served him a notice for appearance on April 14 in Ayodhya.
With the filing of the FIR, friends and well-wishers of Siddharth Vardarajan and The Wire started behaving as though they had their pants put up on fire. Particularly disgruntled was his brother, Tunku Vardarajan, who went out to write an emotive piece of propaganda on the Wall Street Journal.
To quote Tunku from his own piece, he says, “The extent of this intimidation has become personally apparent. My journalist brother, Siddharth Varadarajan, was served notice Friday—coincidentally, his 55th birthday—to appear before the police of Uttar Pradesh… These charges are so evidently incongruous as a response to a news report that one has to conclude they were brought against Siddharth to intimidate him and tie him up in litigation for several months.”
For how dare the Uttar Pradesh Police give the innocent man such a gift on his 55th birthday?
I look forward to editorials denouncing this assault on journalism in the following organs. They will be next: @theprint @scroll_in @EconomicTimes @timesofindia @the_hindu @htTweets @IndianExpress @livemint @thecaravanindia @ttindia @thetribunechd https://t.co/t6ZKGZCMcl @WSJ
— Tunku Varadarajan (@tunkuv) April 13, 2020
This article by him triggered a sea of emotions among liberals, who were heartbroken to see one of their comrades being made to face the law for his misadventures against a no-nonsense man like Yogi Adityanath.
Sadanand Dhume called Varadarajan a journalist, a proposition I personally disagree with. He also went on to say that Yogi was being ‘thuggish’ to intimidate Vardarajan for merely doing his job. Spreading fake news is indeed the man’s job. To that, we all can agree.
Anyone who cares about press freedom in India should speak up about Yogi Adityanath’s thuggish attempt to intimidate @svaradarajan for doing his job as a journalist. v @tunkuv https://t.co/LN7gBr3w7K
— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) April 12, 2020
Ramachandra Guha had this to say:
The attack on the free press in India: https://t.co/tBzEHvl349
— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) April 13, 2020
Ananth Krishnan, journalist with the oxymoronic newspaper called ‘The Hindu’ gave his two bits regarding the fiasco as well.
— Ananth Krishnan (@ananthkrishnan) April 13, 2020
Sanjaya Baru, author of the “Accidental Prime Minister”, said that he stood in solidarity with Varadarajan, and further went on to reminisce as to how the UPA government never harassed people with contrarian views. Yes, he had the gall to say it.
In Solidarity with Siddharth – During my PMO days we disagreed on many issues but that Govt never harassed him. Respect Freedom of Press. @myogiadityanath
— Sanjaya Baru (@Barugaru1) April 13, 2020
Shashi Tharoor went all out in praises of Siddharth, calling the man strongly principled and courageous. And why wouldn’t he? Varadarajan has rightfully earned this respect among Congress’ quarters after years diligent service.
I've known @svaradarajan for a long time and consider him one of the most able, most strongly principled & courageous voices in the Indian media, even when we don't agree all the time. To prosecute him is indeed to persecute freedom of expression. @PrakashJavdekar, pl intervene. https://t.co/TkCMjM6NNb
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) April 12, 2020
Apparently, there is also an online petition doing the rounds, aiming to get people’s support against the ‘harassment’ of Varadarajan.
Please sign this to protest against the appalling attempt of the UP government's harassment of editor Siddharth Varadarajan in the midst of national lockdown. The case is about a factually correct story.https://t.co/X6cqcGv9N7
— Jayati Ghosh (@Jayati1609) April 13, 2020
Some other tweets of solidarity, from abroad, looked like:
— Minky Worden (@MinkysHighjinks) April 13, 2020
Freedom of the press under threat in India – acclaimed journalist Siddarth Varadarajan facing criminal charges for reporting the news – @VinodSreeharsha @nehadixit123 @ShobhanSaxena @CPJAsia https://t.co/vRawudP0r7
— Patricia Campos Mello (@camposmello) April 13, 2020
The editor, Siddharth Varadarajan, was served with a "First Information Report" and invited for a mandatory police interview.
For more on the precise meaning of an FIR, see below. pic.twitter.com/xbtz9bI8kY
— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 12, 2020
“The whole affair reeks of bad intentions.” An estimable Indian journalist is pushed around by the government of India. https://t.co/XADrBsAWyF
— Peggy Noonan (@Peggynoonannyc) April 12, 2020
Peggy here doesn’t quite understand what is happening, and therefore, deems it fit to claim that Varadarajan is being pushed around by the ‘Indian Government’, while it is the UP Police which is undertaking the rightful action.
Meanwhile, the man has not backed down from continuing to spread fake news, as a result of which, he was thrashed by Hoshiarpur Police for claiming that “Muslims were hiding in riverbeds” due to stigmatization.
Its fake! Please don’t post such articles that create panic among people in this time of crisis. We need to UNITE AND FIGHT this pandemic n should help to aware people…NOT to panic.
— Hoshiarpur Police (@PP_Hoshiarpur) April 9, 2020
The Wire is a notorious portal whose trespasses against objectivity and neutrality need no description. When it comes to stirring panic and portraying India in bad light, the portal and its ‘founding editors’ come second to none. Led by Siddharth Varadarajan, who is about to face the music for being the compulsive liar that he is, the portal shamelessly continues to claim practicing ‘journalism’.