In a recent incident that has sparked controversy and raised questions about media freedom, journalist Revathi Pogadadanda was booked by the Telangana Police. The incident occurred on June 19, when Revathi, a Hyderabad-based journalist, posted a tweet about a seven-hour power outage in the LB Nagar area of the city.

Revathi's tweet alleged that a lineman from the Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Company Limited (TGSPDCL) had harassed a woman who had complained about the power cut. The journalist claimed that the lineman had visited the woman's residence and demanded that she delete her tweet about the power outage.

The tweet quickly gained traction, leading to a swift response from the Rachakonda police, who messaged Revathi asking for her contact details. This interaction sparked outrage among netizens, with many questioning how the police department was able to track the location of users and issue veiled threats to a journalist who was raising a genuine concern about citizens' plight with respect to electricity.

FIR registered against journalist

The incident led to the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against Revathi at the LB Nagar Police Station of Rachakonda Police Commissionerate. The FIR was filed under Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 66D (punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource) of the Information Technology Act 2008.

Telangana police
Representational image

The complainant, M. Dileep, an Assistant Engineer in the Saroornagar division of TGSPDCL, alleged that Revathi's tweet was a false allegation that intentionally defamed the state government and their organization, TGSPDCL. He stated that he had received a message from higher officials about Revathi's tweet, which he claimed was a false claim about a seven-hour power interruption in the LB Nagar area.

Revathi, however, stood her ground. Reacting to the FIR, she alleged that while she was booked, the actual culprits from Telangana Power & Co, who had harassed the female consumer, were allowed to walk free. She questioned the stance of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, and Chief Minister Revanth Reddy on media independence.

Outrage and condemnation

In her post on X, she asked, "Is your government trying to silence journalists who expose the truth? If you do believe in democracy, stand with us when we fight for justice, and protect the freedom of the Press!" She further stated that she did not post the video of the harassed woman to protect her privacy.

The incident drew widespread condemnation from senior journalists and opposition leaders, who termed the FIR against Revathi as an act of intimidation against a free press. Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader Krishank condemned the case against the journalist, posting, "Real face of Congress." BRS Working President, KT Rama Rao, and BJP leader Amit Malviya also reacted to Revathi's post. Rama Rao called it a shocking state of affairs in Telangana, questioning whether the police department was running the Energy department or if it was just plain police Raj where cases would be filed on anyone who raises questions on social media.

Senior journalist Danish Manzoor Bhat even went on to sponsor legal fees and support to get the arbitrary FIR quashed.

This incident is reminiscent of similar events in the past where journalists have been targeted for their reporting. It raises serious questions about the freedom of the press and the role of the police and government in protecting or suppressing this freedom. It also highlights the power of social media as a platform for citizens to voice their concerns and the potential backlash they may face for doing so.