As outrage, especially among journalists, grew over the FIR filed against The Tribune newspaper and its reporter Rachna Khaira, the government today said it is committed to the freedom of press, and that the police report has been filed against unknown people.
“The government is fully committed to freedom of press as well as to maintaining security and sanctity of Aadhaar for India’s development. The FIR is against unknown (sic). I’ve suggested @UIDAI to request Tribune and its journalist to give all assistance to police in investigating real offenders,” Union Law as well as Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted.
Govt. is fully committed to freedom of Press as well as to maintaining security & sanctity of #Aadhaar for India’s development. FIR is against unknown. I’ve suggested @UIDAI to request Tribune & it’s journalist to give all assistance to police in investigating real offenders.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) January 8, 2018
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW IN 10 POINTS:
- Last week, in a widely shared report, The Tribune claimed that it took just Rs 500 and 10 minutes for the newspaper to get access through an “agent” to every detail of any individual submitted to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), including the name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number, and email.
- After the January 3 news report with the headline – ‘Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details’ – was published by The Tribune, the UIDAI registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the newspaper and its reporter Rachna Khaira.
- The FIR, lodged with the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch, invokes serious charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Information Technology Act, and the Aadhaar Act.
- The UIDAI also claimed its search facility for grievance redressal may have been “misused” but denied any breach or leak of Aadhaar data.
- The UIDAI move attracted widespread criticism from press bodies, the Editors’ Guild, and journalists from across the country who demanded a withdrawal of cases against the newspaper and its reporter.
- “The Tribune will explore all legal options to defend its freedom to undertake serious investigative journalism,” the Chandigarh-based daily’s Editor-in-Chief Harish Khare said in a note on the newspaper’s website on Sunday.
- “We at The Tribune believe that our stories were in the nature of a legitimate journalistic exercise. Our story was in response to a very genuine concern among the citizens on a matter of great public interest,” Khare said in the note.
- “We regret very much that the authorities have misconceived an honest journalistic enterprise and have proceeded to institute criminal proceedings against the whistleblower. We shall explore all legal options open to us to defend our freedom to undertake serious investigative journalism,” he added.
- The FIR mentions the names of the journalist and the people the reporter reached out to purchase the Aadhaar data, but they have not been shown as accused, the police said, adding that they will be questioned.
- Rachna Khaira, the reporter who has been named by the police, said she was happy about the development as she had “earned” the FIR. “I think I have earned this FIR. I am happy that at least the UIDAI has taken some action on my report and I really hope that along with the FIR, the Government of India will see what all breaches were there and take appropriate action,” she told a television channel.