- Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has increasingly been mentioned as a potential successor to Modi as prime minister
- Reporter accuses his government of threatening journalists to ensure ‘issues like lack of oxygen, hospital facilities and deaths never come to the forefront’
As India’s hospitals filled up and long queues emerged outside crematoriums last month, local journalist Anuj Awasthi had a big scoop. Oxygen supplies were being diverted away from his district in Uttar Pradesh to a larger city in the country’s most populous state, he reported.
A few days later, the reporter for the local Kanwhizz Times was handed a so-called show-cause notice by the district administration under a law intended to curb rumors and misinformation. The notice states that the report was false and demanded that he reveal the source of his story and a subsequent Facebook post. Awasthi claims he has responded stating that his article contained factually correct information widely reported by other news organizations.
“The government is trying to threaten me and other journalists, hoping issues like lack of oxygen, hospital facilities and deaths never come to the forefront,” Awasthi said by phone from Rae Bareli district in central Uttar Pradesh, which has a population twice the size of Germany and a per capita income of less than US$3 a day.
The regional government’s response has been pushed by Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, who is increasingly mentioned as a potential successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In an April video conference with local journalists, Adityanath said he asked officials to use national security laws to seize property from anyone spreading rumors about shortages and trying to “spoil the atmosphere”, The Hindu newspaper reported.
The government also hasn’t issued any order requiring action against those seeking help on social media, the statement said. Still, police in the state have initiated probes against those they say are falsely spreading fears about oxygen shortages.