UN experts urge India to protect journalist Rana Ayyub against hate campaign

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: May 24, 2018
Several United Nations human rights experts have called on Indian authorities to take immediate action to protect journalist Rana Ayyub, who has received death threats following an online hate campaign. The experts in question are David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom fo religion and belief, and Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. 

Ayyub, an independent journalist, has investigated alleged crimes committed by government and public officials, and authored the book The Gujarat Files, which examines the 2002 Gujarat riots. Her troubles began in April, when she was informed that a Twitter account, with a name that was similar to the one used by a major television channel, had credited to her a remark that she had never made. The tweet reportedly read"Minor child rapists are also human, do they have no human rights. This Hindutva Government is bringing ordinance for death to child rapists just to hang muslims in larger numbers. Muslims aren’t safe in India anymore".

Following this, Ayyub received a flood of hate-filled messages, including calls for her to be gang-raped and murdered, and containing references to her religion. Her home address and phone number were posted on social media, and she continues to be targeted, despite having clarified that the tweet was false. Ayyub has been trolled previously, being targeted for her work, her gender, and her religion. Ayyub told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that, on April 23, she was sent a three-minute pornographic video via Twitter and Facebook in which her face superimposed on "bodies of naked women". The UN experts have taken note of this and expressed alarm over the video, which reportedly prompted fresh threats. Although the police opened an investigation into the threats ten days after Ayyub lodged a complaint, she has thus far reportedly not been given police protection. 

Recalling the September 2017 murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh after she received death threats, the UN experts said, "We are highly concerned that the life of Rana Ayyub is at serious risk following these graphic and disturbing threats," adding, "We call on India to urgently take steps to protect Rana Ayyub and to ensure the threats against her are promptly and thoroughly investigated. The Government has an obligation to provide effective protection to those who receive death threats and to protect individuals from foreseeable threats to life or bodily integrity". The experts noted that "Governments also have a responsibility to build a safe environment for independent voices, including those of journalists critical of the authorities. We have previously urged the authorities in India to take active steps to reverse a political climate that, in recent years, has become increasingly polarised and hostile, especially to the media and those exercising the freedom of expression". The experts have been in touch with the Indian government regarding this issue.