Officials Harassing South Asia Tribune New Delhi Correspondent
July 27: Indian intelligence agencies are harassing Arun Rajnath
(Left) , the Special Correspondent of South Asia Tribune
in New Delhi after failing to persuade him to stop writing what
these agencies describe as stories against the national security
who has been reporting for the SAT for almost two years
has also been refused accreditation by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs because MEA officials say he writes against their advice
and against the national interest.
harassment of Rajnath in New Delhi comes shortly after Pakistan
Government had placed the South Asia Tribune Editor,
Shaheen Sehbai, on the infamous Exit Control List which prohibits
Pakistani citizens to leave the country. Sehbai is in Washington
but if he enters Pakistan, he will not be allowed to leave the
Arun Rajnath reported the harassment
he was facing to the Editor of his newspaper in Washington after
intimidating telephone calls from intelligence operatives became
so frequent they became a nuisance.
Editor Shaheen Sehbai strongly condemned the harassment and in
a statement said it was even more deplorable as India claimed
to be a democratic country where the Press was supposed to be
urged all the international media watchdog organizations to take
immediate note of the harassment of Rajnath as well as denial
of accreditation because it exposed the real situation in which
no journalist could report objectively without facing the wrath
of the Indian Establishment.
Rajnath has been receiving crank calls and threatening E-mails
by a person who calls himself Asif Nadeem. This person claims
to be from a security agency. When Rajnath refused to concede
his demands to propagate Government’s views in the South
Asia Tribune, he was threatened to face the consequences.
On the other hand, the Publicity
Division of the Ministry of External Affairs has directed the
Press Information Bureau not to issue a Press-accreditation to
Arun Rajnath, as it was not in the national interest of India.
According to Rajnath, the person
who identifies himself as Asif Nadeem first called him up on his
home telephone number on the morning of June 21, 2005, and claimed
to be speaking from the Media Cell of the Home Ministry. Nadeem
said that he wanted to see Rajnath.
Arun invited him to a crowded
Coffee Shop in Cannaught Place, the heart of Delhi. Asif Nadeem
came wearing the dark blue shirt and off-white pants which he
had said he would be wearing for identification.
first tried to bribe Rajnath and offered to pay Rs10,000 per month
for writing one story per month against Pakistan or Bangladesh
or Nepal or Hurriyat Conference or Naxalites or any one else suggested
by the security agencies.
Nadeem claimed that many top journalists
covering External, Home and Defense Ministries were on the payroll
of security agencies or the concerned ministries and they received
handsome compensation packages which Arun could also get after
proving his worth.
He also promised that he would
help Rajnath in getting clearances for his press accreditation
card and would get his name included in the list of journalists
who always accompany the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on
their international tours.
asked Arun not to write ‘damaging stories’ on the
Defense sector and Kashmir that ‘tarnish’ the image
of India at international forums. He had a complete list with
him on Arun’s defense stories that he claimed were ‘objectionable’
and ‘anti-national’ from the administration’s
point of view.
had grievous objections particularly to the following three stories:
“India Sending Thousands of Commandos to Kashmir in
Changed Strategy” published on November 18, 2004,
“Indian Army Faces Embarrassment After Fake Militants Surrender
Scam”, published on December 05, 2004, and
3. “The Blatant Kashmir Discrimination Against Militants’
Widows”, published on January 02, 2005.
He told Rajnath: “Though
these stories may be true, when they are published in the international
media, they cause ripples and tarnish the image of India. Such
is the impact of the international media, particularly web newspapers.
You should be cautious in your approach. We will pay you for your
assistance. We can also pay you for not writing such stories if
you do not agree to propagate our viewpoint. Why don’t you
write only political stories?”
Rajnath firmly but politely declined all the offers and urged
Nadeem not to contact him again as he was not interested in his
proposals. Nadeem was quiet for a time but the situation took
an ugly turn when the following two stories were published in
1. “Tamil Tigers Training Nepalese Rebels: An Interview
Revealing All”, published on July 8, 2005, and
“Maoist Working Hard to Carve Out Their Own Country”,
published on July 24, 2005.
started calling Rajnath desperately and repeatedly asked him to
disclose the source of his story about the Maoists. He also threatened
him to either work for the security agencies, like other journalists
and pass on the information to the agencies, or be ready to face
These phone calls were made from
the numbers 9868303885, 9891367900 and 26687984. In one such conversation
Nadeem said: “Mr. Arun you would have been arrested by now
had the POTA not been abolished. But it does not mean that you
are free to write anti-national stories in a Pakistani newspaper.”
It is noteworthy that the Vajpayee
government had imposed the infamous Prevention of Terrorism Act
(POTA) in which there has been a provision that the journalists
could be detained if they had any prior information of any act
of terrorism or terrorist organizations. Journalists had to intimate
the security agencies about their sources. But due to the pressure
from the Left parties, the act has been abolished.
While the intelligence agencies
are harassing Rajnath, his application for Press accreditation
has been pending for months as the Foreign Ministry officials
think Rajnath had exposed the Indian policy on Nepal for what
it was worth.
officials of the Foreign Ministry have declared him “dangerous
for national security” and “he must not get the press
accreditation as he would get access to all ministries including
Defense, Foreign and Home, Prime Minister’s Office and other
The Police Verification conducted
by the Press Information Bureau following Rajnath’s application
for a Press card has been clean and the file of accreditation
has been sent to the Press Relations, Publicity Division, Ministry
of External Affairs for its comments and recommendations because
Arun Rajnath works for a foreign newspaper.
fulfilling all conditions and a positive report from the local
police, Arun’s file was not put up before the Accreditation
Committee in June, because the MEA had not returned the file by
then. In February this year the Foreign Ministry had issued a
special statement against Rajnath in a bid to discredit him and
his reports. Click
to View MEA Statement
darting off many letters and reminders to the Principal Information
Officer, Press Information Bureau (PIB), Arun received a letter
from Anupma V. Chandra, Information Officer (Press Facility) dated
July 18, 2005 (No. F. 1/7208-PRS) in which she admitted: “Your
case is pending for want of comments/recommendations from Ministry
of External Affairs on the status of South Asia Tribune,
USA. Min. of External Affairs was requested for comments vide
this Bureau’s letter dated 14.3.2005 and a reminder dated
11.5.2005. Another reminder is also being sent.”
The PIB sent the letter to Ishwar
Prasad Teki, Publicity Officer, Press Relations, Ministry of External
Affairs for comments. This department comes under direct control
of the Joint Secretary, External Publicity Division, MEA. Navtej
Sarna is the boss who happens to be the Joint Secretary and Official
Spokesperson, as well.
As a matter of fact, the Publicity
Division has directed Ishwar Prasad Teki not to clear the file.
At present the MEA is not getting any concrete ground to reject
the file, therefore the officials are holding it without taking
any decision. They want to delay the process as the Accreditation
Committee of the PIB meets only twice in the year to consider
the cases of accreditation. It had already met in the month of
June, and it would now meet in December.
According to the sources of the
PIB and Foreign Ministry, the Publicity Division (MEA) and Home
Ministry have already sounded the authorities of the PIB not to
give accreditation to Arun Rajnath because “he works for
a Pakistani newspaper, and his write-ups are irresponsible and
not in the line of national interest.”
“He could be dangerous to
the national security if he gets accreditation as then he would
be entitled to visit all ministries, government offices, sensitive
places, Prime Minister’s Office, President House, etc.”
battle to receive fair treatment continues.