Posts Tagged ‘Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui’

9 lessons a ‘terror-suspect’ journo learnt in jail

27 February 2013

Deccan Herald journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui has walked out of the central jail in Bangalore a free man, six months after being named by the city’s police in an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba plot to target two Kannada journalists and the publisher of the newspaper they were earlier employed in.

Siddiqui had been accused of being the “mastermind” of a gang of 15 in August last year to kill editor Vishweshwar Bhat, columnist Pratap Simha and publisher Vijay Sankeshwar, allegedly for their “right-wing leanings“. The journalists were with Vijaya Karnataka of The Times of India group, before they joined Rajeev Chandrasekhar‘s Kannada Prabha.

The national investigation agency (NIA), which investigated the case, didn’t name Siddiqui in its chargesheet on February 20 following which a special court trying the case ordered his release on February 23.

On Monday night, Siddiqui walked out of jail and on Tuesday, he addressed a press conference.

Reporting for the Indian Express, Johnson T.A. writes:

About six months ago, when he appeared in court for the first time after being named by the Bangalore Police, Siddiqui, 26, still had the glint of youthful exuberance in his eyes.

But now, the first thing that comes to mind on seeing Siddiqui after his release from prison on Monday, is the disappearance of that enthusiasm from his face. Gone is the glint in his eyes, and in its place is a serious, sad man.

Even so, Siddiqui, whose thesis suggestion for his PG diploma in mass communication—‘Media coverage of terrorism suspects’—was struck down by his supervisor pulled no punches in describing his own ordeal before his colleagues, compatriots and competitors.

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siddiqui

Deccan Herald journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui with a relative at a press conference at the Press Club of Bangalore on Tuesday, 26 February

# “The media has forgotten the ‘A’ in the ABC of Journalism [Accuracy-Brevity-Clarity].”

# “I always thought the police, media and society at large do not treat terror suspects fairly. That thinking has been reinforced by my experience.”

# “Security agencies are not sensitive towards the poor and weaker sections of society. If you look at the way the entire operation was carried out by the police and reported by the media, this insensitivity is clear.”

# According to the [Bangalore] police and the media, I am the mastermind. If I am the mastermind, why are the others still in jail? I hope they too will get justice.”

# “The media and the police need to be more sensitive toward the downtrodden, Dalits and Muslims. The way the media and the police behaved raises basic questions about their attitude toward Muslims.

# “Muslims are often cast by the media and police in stereotypes. There is an institutional bias which manifests in such cases. This is not just about me; it is about hundreds like me who are in jails [across the country] on terror charges. Muslims are not terrorists.”

# “If I was not a Muslim the police wouldn’t have picked me…. They first arrest people, then find evidence against them. What happened on August 29, 2012 was no arrest but downright kidnapping. A bunch of strong men barged into our house and forcefully took us away in their vehicles. This even as we were pleading and asking why we were being taken out.”

# “They kept interrogating me as if I was the mastermind and kept saying that I’d be in for seven years for sure. Everyone knows that jail is no fun place. For the first 30 days we were cramped in a small room. The confinement itself was torture.  They did not inform our families. They did not tell us what we were being arrested for. They made us sign 30-40 blank sheets of paper. One of these papers was used to create fake, back-dated arrest intimation.”

# “Some fair play is still possible in the system. Though justice was delayed, it wasn’t denied in my case.”

Siddiqui, who is still on Deccan Herald‘s roster, says he wants to go back to journalism, for that is his passion, but wants to spend time with his family first.

Two other journalists—Jigna Vora of The Asian Age and S.M.A. Kazmi—have been arrested in recent times on terror charges. They are both out on bail.

Photograph: Journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui at a press conference in Bangalore on 26 February 2013 (courtesy Md. Asad/ The Times of India)

Also read: Bangalore journo in plot to kill editor, columnist?

Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?

L’affaire Mohammed Haneef

Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?

1 September 2012

The home in Hubli of Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui, the ‘Deccan Herald’ reporter arrested in Bangalore on Thursday for allegedly being involved in a plot whose targets included an editor, a columnist and a newspaper publisher (Photo: courtesy Praja Vani)

For the second day running, most newspapers in Bangalore refrain from naming the editor, columnist and newspaper publisher who were allegedly the target of a failed assassination attempt, “masterminded”, according to the police, by a reporter working with the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald.

(The first information report (FIR) filed on the arrests names the three targets: Vishweshwar Bhat, Pratap Simha and Vijay Sankeshwar, respectively.)

The only news organisations to give play to the names of the three media persons was Suvarna News, the 24×7 Kannada news channel owned by the member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and of which Bhat is also editor-in-chief, which repeatedly flashed their names.

The Kannada news channel TV9 ran a news item on Thursday night which showed Sankeshwar repeatedly sobbing on discovering his name on the hitlist but has avoided naming Bhat and Simha in news bulletins and other programmes.  (TV9 and Suvarna News are competitors.)

***

The Times of India, generally not the first newspaper which reports stories on journalists, bucks the trend (graphic, above):

Prathap Simha, a journalist with Kannada Prabha, was a target along with his editor Vishveshwar Bhat. The suspects allegedly wanted to kill Simha because he had written a book in Kannada on the Gujarat CM titled “Narendra ModiYaaru Thuliyada Haadi” (Narendra Modi – The Untrodden Road) in 2008.

“A laptop seized from a suspect contains this book and a picture of Simha interviewing Modi,” a senior police officer said. When contacted, Simha said: “I have also written a book on Muhammed Ali Jinnah in Kannada.”

However, Vijaya Karnataka, the Kannada daily that The Times of India group bought from Vijay Sankeshwar six years ago, extends no such courtesy. And this, although Vishweshwar Bhat was the editor of the paper, Pratap Simha its star columnist and Sankeshwar its owner.

Ditto Praja Vani, the Kannada daily owned from the Deccan Herald stable.

To its credit, Praja Vani carries a long, 14-paragraph story from Hubli, the hometown of DH reporter Siddiqui (see picture, above), even as the arrests look poised to become a human rights’ issue.

In its story, Praja Vani reports the humble circumstances from which Siddiqui rose to be a reporter at Deccan Herald.

“The money he sent home each month was what sustained us siblings (three brothers and two sisters). The financial condition of our family improved only when Siddiqui joined work…. Since there is no TV set at our home, we came to know of his arrest thanks to our neighbours,” his sister Shamshad Begum said.

In a related story, Vijaya Karnataka suggests that another journalist may be picked up in connection with the foiled attack. (Market leaders Vijaya Karnataka and Praja Vani compete with Kannada Prabha, where editor Bhat and columnist Simha now work, and with Vijaya Vani, the new paper launched by Sankeshwar.)

***

Although the motive to kill Bhat, Simha and Sankeshwar was unclear on day one, Deccan Herald quotes anonymous police sources on day two:

“They (the sources) also claimed that they were about to execute one of their targets, a columnist of a Kannada daily allegedly harbouring an anti-minority bias. The police, who were tracking the modules for the past couple of months, had caught wind of the plot and busted the module.”

The Hindu has a clarification:

In a report from Bangalore published in the issue of August 31, headlined “Journalist among 11 arrested for ‘plotting terror in Karnataka’,” the description of some journalists who were purportedly targeted by the alleged plotters as ones “known for their virulent anti-minority columns” was unfair and unwarranted, and escaped gatekeeping mechanisms that are in place to keep such editorialising comments out of the news columns of this newspaper. That description, as well as the loose and imprecise reference to the “divergent ideologies” of two terrorist organisations are regretted and may be deemed as withdrawn. — The Editor

Also, in a surprising first, The Times of India has a rare good word for rival Deccan Herald, where Siddiqui worked:

“Hard disks from the computers used by the journalist at his workplace and other documents have been seized. The employers of the journalist have cooperated with us,” police sources said.

Also read: Bangalore journo in plot to kill editor, columnist?

Bangalore journo in plot to kill editor, columnist?

31 August 2012

The Times of India, Bangalore, runs a picture of reporter Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui but doesn’t not name the newspaper he worked for: Deccan Herald

A reporter of the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald has been arrested, along with 10 others, allegedly for links with “global terror outfits”, and the police have claimed that the group planned, among others, to assassinate an editor and a columnist, and the publisher of the newspaper they were earlier employed in.

The journalist—Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui, 26 (in picture, above), an education reporter with the well-regarded Deccan Herald—has been named by the police as the “mastermind” of the alleged plot.

The editor in question is Vishweshwar Bhat, the editor-in-chief of the Kannada daily, Kannada Prabha, and the Kannada 24×7 news channel, Suvarna News (both owned by the member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar).

The columnist is Pratap Simha, the news editor of Kannada Prabha.

The publisher is Vijay Sankeshwar, the truck operator who built Kannada no.1 daily Vijaya Karnataka (where Bhat and Simha were employed), before they moved out two years ago after he sold the paper to The Times of India group. (Sankeshwar now runs a rival daily called Vijaya Vani.)

***

Deccan Herald reports the story on page one in all its editions but the news of Siddiqui’s alleged involvement is buried in the seventh of a nine-paragraph story with this line:

They (the arrested people) were identified as Shoaib Ahmed Mirza alias Chotu, 25; Abdullah alias Abdul Hakim Jamadar, 25; Ijaz Mohammed Mirza, 25, who worked for DRDO; Mohammed Yousuf Nalaband, 28; Riyaz Ahmed Byahatti, 28 and Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui, 26, a reporter working for this newspaper.

On the inside pages, Deccan Herald quotes Siddiqui’s brother:

“Speaking from Hubli, Siddiqui’s brother Atta-Ur-Rahman said: “I know my brother. Such activities were never part of his life. He is scared of even talking aloud… How will he lift a gun?” he asked.

According to Atta-Ur-Rahman, his brother was always aiming to be a journalist and his only passion was reading.  Atta-Ur-Rahman claimed that he was certain that the police will not be able to trace any link between his brother and LeT/ HUJI.”

In a related story from Hubli, from where several of the suspects were picked up, DH reported:

“The two suspects had come to Hubli recently. They were allegedly given instructions by journalist Muthi-Ur Rahman Siddiqui to spread jihad in the region, the neighbours said.

“Siddiqui, it is said, was the secretary of the Students’ Islamic Organisation four years ago.

“Subsequently, he shifted to Bangalore where he allegedly came in contact with the banned Bangladesh-based HUJI and recruited operatives for the terrorist outfit.

“Sources said Siddiqui allegedly met other terror suspects in the City regularly and conspired to kill political leaders. They were in Bangalore on August 5 and had used a certain Imran’s computer to send hate SMSes and posted inciting video clippings online to spread rumours that North-Eastern people would be attacked.”

***

Kannada Prabha, the newspaper where both Bhat and Simha work, frontpages the story of the arrest of the 11 “ultras”, names the editor, columnist and publisher, but refrains from naming the journalist involved or his newspaper. (Kannada Prabha competes with Praja Vani, the Kannada daily from the Deccan Herald group.)

Kannada Prabha, the paper where Vishveshwar Bhat and Pratap Simha work, front-pages the story of “Mission Kill Pratap”. The paper claims the operation had been codenamed “Ramesh Marriage” to avoid suspicion

***

Vijaya Karnataka, where Bhat and Simha worked before they left to join Kannada Prabha, does not name Siddiqui on the front page or the potential victims.

 

***

The Hindu, which first reported that several of the 11 people were “missing” on Thursday, before their arrest was formally announced, too quoted Siddiqui’s brother:

“He is the third of the five brothers and the mildest of all. Journalism has been his passion. I returned from Dubai and we had gone on a tour. When we were in Bijapur, we received the news from a colleague of his that he had been taken away by the police for inquiry on Wednesday. Even now we don’t really know what is happening. We are shocked”, said Atha-ur-Rahman Siddiqui who is the eldest brother of journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui.

The last conversation he had with Muthi-ur-Rahman was on Tuesday night. “We have a small house at Bandiwad Base. I wanted to get it renovated and wanted to speak to him about it. He said it was difficult for him to get leave but would visit Hubli by Friday. I tried his number continuously on Wednesday evening but it was switched off. I cannot imagine Muthi-ur-Rahman doing all that that is being told on television. There must be some confusion, I will seek media help to get him out of all this,” said Atha-ur-Rahman Siddiqui.

Also read: Is management responsible for content too?

Journalist vs journalist in Bangalore free-for-all

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