The IPI global network condemns the Indian government’s continued harassment of prominent journalist Rana Ayyub, after authorities last week barred her from leaving the country as she was boarding an international flight to speak at events about press freedom. While Delhi’s High Court today canceled the travel ban, we call on India’s ruling party to cease its harassment of Ayyub and to take action to ensure the safety of female journalists in India.
Ayyub, an outspoken critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies, has faced relentless harassment and online abuse, including rape and death threats, by Hindu right-wing groups and Modi’s online troll armies for years.
In January 2022, an investigation by The Wire revealed that Ayyub was among a number of journalists, including many female journalists, to be targeted by a sophisticated online disinformation operation deployed by Modi’s conservative nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In recent months, Ayyub’s bank accounts were frozen after authorities accused her of laundering money she received as donations for relief during the COVID-19 pandemic – an accusation she has rejected as “utterly baseless.” She had already appeared before authorities in December 2021 to answer these accusations, and told The Indian Express that she at that time provided all of the required documents related to her handling of the donations.
On March 29, Ayyub was stopped by airport authorities in Mumbai, based on an order from the state’s financial crimes agency which had issued a summons for her to appear for questioning related to these same money laundering allegations. She was on her way to deliver a speech on the intimidation of journalists for the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in London and then was supposed to travel to Perugia, Italy for the International Journalism Festival to give a keynote speech.
On April 4, the Delhi High Court cleared Ayyub for travel.
“While the court canceled the government’s travel ban, this is another example of the Indian government’s relentless harassment of Rana Ayyub”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “We urge the authorities to cease attempts to silence Ayyub through these types of intimidation tactics and disproportionate measures and we demand that the government take concrete steps to ensure her safety as well as the safety of other female journalists in India.”
In February 2022, IPI joined the Coalition Against Online Violence (CAOV) in demanding Indian authorities cease instigating attacks on Ayyub. U.N. human rights experts also appealed to the Indian government to end the “misogynistic and sectarian” attacks against the journalist.