Last week, Uttar Pradesh (UP) state chief Yogi Adityanath threatened residents of his region that their properties would be confiscated if they were to post about the shortage of oxygen in the state. The Hindu monk claimed that there are ample supplies in his state to tackle the deadly COVID crisis.
In the Rae Bareli district of Uttar Pradesh, three print journalists, Shivam Kumar Trivedi, Durgesh Singh Chauhan, and Anuj Awasthi, have been served legal notices demanding an explanation over their reports covering the oxygen supply scarcity in the state.
The notices were issued by the Additional District Magistrate (Administration) of Rae Bareli, Ram Abhilash.
While Trivedi and Awasthi filed stories on the alarming oxygen situation in Uttar Pradesh for their respective Hindi publications, Chauhan has been asked to share details on an article he posted on Facebook that claimed that “20 metric tonnes” of medical oxygen were diverted from Rae Bareli to the neighbouring city of Kanpur when patients in Rae Bareli were also in need of the essential gas.
Claiming that the information circulated by these journalists is “meant to mislead the public and peddle false propaganda”, the Rae Bareli administration has asked the journalists to reveal details on the sources that were used to corroborate their stories.
This development adds to a slew of controversies that Uttar Pradesh state chief Yogi Adityanath has found himself embroiled in for trying to stop news about a shortage of medical supplies and oxygen in his state from spreading. Uttar Pradesh currently has 285,832 active cases and has registered a total of 13,447 deaths due to COVID so far.
Last week, Uttar Pradesh police arrested a man, Shashank Yadav, who used Twitter to try to find oxygen for his dying grandfather, claiming that Yadav was trying to spread fake rumours about oxygen unavailability in the Amethi district. The news of Yadav’s arrest shocked Indians across the country, prompting many people to show support for him on social media and declare that Uttar Pradesh, along with other parts of the country, are indeed facing an acute health crisis.
On 30 April, the Supreme Court of India intervened and directed all state authorities to not “harass” citizens seeking COVID-related help from others on social media.
The Bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, as well as Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat, said that any such actions taken by any state or legal authorities will be treated as contempt of court.