‘Maliciously targeted’: Attacks against Rana Ayyub must stop, says UN

[Photo: Twitter/ Rana Ayyub]

United Nations human rights experts on Monday condemned the “relentless misogynistic and sectarian attacks online” against journalist Rana Ayyub and sought a thorough investigation of it by the Indian authorities.

Independent investigative journalist and woman human rights defender Rana Ayyub continues to be the victim of intensifying attacks and threats online by far-right Hindu nationalist groups, the experts said in a statement.

They pointed to the attacks as being a result of her reporting on issues affecting minority Muslims in the country, her criticism of the Government for its handling of the pandemic and her comments on the recent ban on hijabs in schools and colleges in Karnataka.

“In response to Ms Ayyub’s efforts to shine a light on public interest issues and hold power to account through her reporting, she has been maliciously targeted with anonymous death and rape threats by organised groups online,” said the experts.

“The lack of condemnation and proper investigation by the Government, coupled with the legal harassment it has itself inflicted on Ms Ayyub, has only served to falsely legitimise the attacks and attackers and further endangered her safety.”

Ms Ayyub has been subjected to legal harassment by the Indian authorities in relation to her reporting for a number of years, the experts said.

On 11 February, for the second time in six months, Ms Ayyub’s bank account and other assets were frozen in response to seemingly baseless allegations of money laundering and tax fraud, related to her crowd-funding campaigns to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic. As with many of the spurious and defamatory accusations made against Ms Ayyub in retaliation for her reporting, the experts said, the false allegations can be traced back to a far-right social media group.

UN human rights experts have previously written to the Government on a number of occasions to express their concern in relation to the threats against and legal harassment of Ms Rana Ayyub.

“The Government is not only failing in its obligation to protect Ms Ayyub as a journalist, but through its own investigations of Ms Ayyub, it is also contributing to and exacerbating her perilous situation. It is imperative that the authorities take urgent measures to protect her from the onslaught of threats and hate online and end the investigation against her,” the UN statement added.

Meanwhile, India described the UN statement on Rana Ayyub as “baseless and unwarranted”, and said such a “misleading narrative” harms the UN’s reputation.


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