They expressed serious concern at the alleged threats, including death threats and threats of rape, received by Chaturvedi, which seem to be linked to her journalistic work and criticism of Government policies. Chaturvedi has been awarded the Press Freedom Award by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for her book “I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army.”
The United Nations UN Special Rapporteurs issued a joint communication dated 11 December 2018 to the Government of India drawing their attention to threats, including death threats, against Swati Chaturvedi, a journalist and columnist at NDTV and TheWire.in.
UN Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; violence against women; and the Working Group wrote the document on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
The experts asked the government to indicate, among other things, “what measures have been taken to ensure that journalists and media workers, including women, in India are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of threats, acts of intimidation directed against them or their family members, or harassment of any sort”.
In their communication, they said that Chaturvedi is known as a critic of Hindu fundamentalism and has been the target of two libel suits by a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. In November 2018 she was awarded the Press Freedom Award by Reporters Without Borders.
According to the information received by them, “On 21 November 2018, Ms. Chaturvedi was in New Delhi when she received a threat on her Twitter account. This was the latest in a large series of threats received in connection to her reporting. A Twitter user referred to Ms. Chaturvedi as “One more Gauri Lankesh in the making”, implying that Ms. Chaturvedi would share the same fate of Ms. Gauri Lankesh, another journalist critic of Hindu fundamentalism and BJP who was murdered in September 2017, following a violent hate campaign targeting her on social media. Ms. Lankesh was the subject of joint communication by Special Procedures sent on 11 September 2017 (ref. no. 11/2017). We regret that we have received no response from your Excellency’s Government to that communication.”
The Twitter threat occurred a few days after numerous Indian media websites reported that Chaturvedi had been awarded the Press Freedom Award by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for her book “I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army”, for which she became the target of online harassment campaigns.
They asked the government to answer whether the threats against Chaturvedi have been thoroughly investigated with a view to identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice? “If so, what are the results of the investigation? If no investigation has been initiated, please explain why. Please indicate the protection measures taken to protect Ms. Chaturvedi against new threats and other violations of her rights,” they asked.
They also demanded to the status of any investigation into the murder of Gauri Lankesh and asked to indicate what actions did the govt take to condemn attacks against human rights defenders for exercising their rights to freedom of conscience, thought and expression.
“Please indicate what measures have been taken to ensure that journalists and media workers, including women, in India are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of threats, acts of intimidation directed against them or their family members, or harassment of any sort. Please specify which steps have been taken to challenge Hindu fundamentalist discourses which may be giving rise to threats such as those against Ms. Chaturvedi,” they asked
They expressed serious concern at the alleged threats, including death threats and threats of rape, received by Chaturvedi, which seem to be linked to her journalistic work and criticism of Government policies.
“We are also concerned by the apparent lack of steps taken to investigate the threats despite them having been reported to the Police. We are also concerned about what appears to be a wide presence of fundamentalist discourses and intolerance, including from members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which may encourage negative social mobilization leading to expression of intolerance, incitement to hatred, violence, including gender-based violence, as well as discriminatory practices against women and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes that are inherently discriminatory and undermine a full range of women’s human rights in all spheres. Furthermore, we are concerned by the undermining of freedom of expression based on the lack of measures taken to create a safe and an enabling environment for freedom of expression, in particular for women, including in the online space,” they said.
“In view of the urgency of the matter, we call on your Excellency’s Government to investigate the threats and take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Ms. Chaturvedi and would appreciate a response on the initial steps taken to safeguard her human rights in compliance with international human rights instruments and standards,” they added.
The special rapporteurs and signatories of this communication are Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and Ivana Radačić ,Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice .