THE National Alliance of Journalists and Delhi Union of Journalists, in a statement issued on January 8, have jointly condemned the registering of an FIR against Tribune reporter Rachna Khaira and her sources for her expose of leaks in the Aadhar system. We believe the reporter should be commended for investigating and bringing to light the easy access that touts and hackers have to the UIDAI’s allegedly impenetrable data site and its availability for as little as Rs 500 to anyone who wants it. This ready access to individual addresses, mobile phone numbers, email addresses and photographs raises critical questions about the invasion of people’s privacy through the Aadhar system.
Khaira and the Tribune, Chandigarh have done the nation a service by bringing this abuse to light. Filing of criminal complaints against them smacks of vindictiveness by the UIDAI authority. We regret that the union government too has repeatedly sought to defend the Aadhar biometric system despite growing evidence of its shortcomings. We demand immediate withdrawal of the slew of charges under the IPC including Section 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using forged documents) and Section 66 of the IT Act that have been filed to intimidate the reporter. We view this as an attack on the freedom of the press and note with dismay the alarming increase in the number of attacks on the media and media persons, said the statement.
We welcome the numerous solidarity statements issued by journalists and their organisations across the country and call for united action to demand justice for The Tribune. The Network of Women & Media, the Editors Guild of India, the Broadcasting Editors’ Association, the Jammu Press Club, the Chandigarh Press Club, the Press Club of India, the Press Association and the Indian Women’s Press Corps are among those who have spoken up against the government’s arbitrary action.