The Clooney Foundation for Justice is alarmed at the investigation launched this week into Indian journalist and Washington Post Global Opinions writer Rana Ayyub.
Ms. Ayyub, who is known for her investigative reporting critical of Prime Minister Modi and his government, is facing charges of fraud and money laundering for alleged misuse of funds she received for COVID relief. The case was prompted by a complaint from an individual affiliated with India’s ruling party. For one of the fraud charges alone, Ms. Ayyub faces up to seven years in prison.
These latest charges, and others mounting against Ms. Ayyub, appear to be an attempt to harass, intimidate, and silence her in response to her reporting, in particular on India’s handling of the COVID crisis. CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative will monitor the multiplying proceedings against her.
In 2019, Ms. Ayyub was named by Time Magazine as one of ten journalists facing the ‘most urgent’ threats to press freedom around the world. More recently, in the weeks leading up to the fraud charges, Ms. Ayyub has been repeatedly called in for police questioning by authorities across India and had her bank account frozen. These fraud and foreign funding charges also follow a separate investigation launched against her earlier this year for ‘outraging religious feelings’ after she and other Indian journalists tweeted a video of an elderly Muslim man being violently assaulted by Hindu men. Ms. Ayyub faces up to three years in prison for her tweet.
CFJ calls on the Indian authorities to respect her rights to freedom of expression and to a fair trial. CFJ also calls on the Indian authorities to ensure that any proceedings against her are not a tool of harassment.
The multiple proceedings against Ms. Ayyub are part of a larger ongoing pattern of intimidation and harassment of journalists for their independent reporting in India, which now ranks 142nd out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. TrialWatch is also monitoring several other trials against Indian journalists, including one sedition case for reporting and sharing social media posts about the death of a farmer during the Delhi farmers’ protests.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice will be monitoring the proceedings against Ms. Ayyub in partnership with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute.