All throughout the course of trial and after he was acquitted of all terror charges, Syed Wasif Haider, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district, was being termed as a ‘terrorist’ by the media. When the trial by media crossed his tolerance limit, he sued three Hindi dailies thus taking them to court.
Syed Wasif Haider, a graduate in Physics and Mathematics from Chatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj University, was arrested on 31 July 2001 for his alleged involvement in a bomb blast that took place on 14 August 2000.
Three policemen were injured in the blast caused by a bomb planted in a pressure cooker. After the arrest, the Police claimed that Wasif was a member of Hizbul Mujahidin, an outlawed terror outfit. Subsequently he was charged in different anti national cases at different places.
Later after languishing for about eight years in the jail, he was acquitted of the all the charges by different courts in Kanpur and Delhi by12 August, 2009.
Narrating the entire account of fabrication of cases Wasif told Newzfirst that how the media trial added insult to injury.
“First of all my parents were not able to come out of the trauma of my arrest, this media trial made them further untouchable and disconnected in the society.” says 40 years old Wasif.
A Hindi daily, Amar Ujala, published a story on its city page on 19 December2001, where the newspaper introduced him as terrorist.
The same newspaper published a news story on 11 August 2006 about under-trial ’s demand for some facilities in jail. The newspaper carried a headline ‘Atankion ne jail me suvidhaen maangi, faisla 28 ko’ (Terrorists demand facilities in jail, decision on 28).
Wasif says that according to Uttar Pradesh Jail Manual, graduate prisoners can ask for chair, table and some other facilities for the purpose of study. (But he never got it, as the decision remained pending before fast track court.)
Trial continues after acquittal too!!!
Wasif was acquitted in one of several cases by the additional session judge of Kanpur on 23 April, 2003. Citing that none of the witnesses was able to establish that accused have committed the crime, the Court observed that the prosecution has failed to prove the charges against any of the accused, as such all the accused are entitled for acquittal from the offences for which they have been charged.
On 13 August 2006 the same newspaper Amar Ujala again published a news-story with a headline – ‘Khufiya ki paini nazar, Kanpur me 11 ISI agent’ (Intelligence has a close watch, 11 ISI agents are in Kanpur). Wasif says that the list of ISI agents included his name too.
According to Wasif still such kind of defamatory, fabricated and planned stories are being published regularly.
Distressed by such media-practices, I didn’t find any other way but to sue those publications in the Supreme Court, he says. “All of them have published the news of our acquittal but still the media trial is on.”
Wasif was working as area sales manager in an American company Becton Dickinson, which manufactures medical equipments and was earning handsome salary. But after his acquittal nobody is ready to offer him a job.
The stigma has not even spared her younger daughter, who has to face the taunts at the school because of derogatory media depictions.
Larger questions over media reporting:
This is a serious question; who has given the right to them (media) to pronounce someone as criminal? asks Wasif.
One who knows the basic law is aware that no one can introduce someone as criminal unless he or she is proved guilty by the court of law, he says.
Wasif sent a legal notice to Amar Ujala through his lawyer Irshad Hanid on 30 April this year arguing to publish an apology for aforesaid news-stories and to stop doing the same in future. “But, they continued to do more than earlier.” says Wasif.
“On last 27 September they published a news regarding terror activities in Kanpur with a headline ‘ye tha mamla’ (This was the case) wherein they included my father Syed Hiader Jafri’s name in the list of terrorists.”
Wasif’s father Syed Hiader Jafri has won several awards for translations including Sahitya Academy award.
“Is media superior to the Court?” asks distressed Wasif. “Even the guidelines of Supreme Court of India say that media should recheck the facts and publish truth.”
He further says that newspapers also write that those who meet ‘us’ terrorists will be investigated by the Police. Then who will be having courage to meet us and get into trouble?
Who has given powers to media to give character certificate, questions Wasif. According to him the Hindi media is more biased and has criminal mindset than others.
“If the Police catch a dog and claim that they have arrested it because it was trained in Pakistan, this Hindi media will publish that news without asking any question.” he says.
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