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May 25, 2018

UN Experts Call on Indian Authorities to Provide Protection to Rana Ayyub

A group of experts from the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed concern about the journalist's safety after she recently became the target of an online hate campaign.

New Delhi: Five United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) experts have urged India to urgently provide protection to journalist Rana Ayyub, who has been the target of a concerted online hate campaign.

“We are highly concerned that the life of Rana Ayyub is at serious risk following these graphic and disturbing threats,” said the independent UN experts in a joint message released by the Geneva-based UNHRC on Thursday.

According to the press note, the experts have been in contact with the Indian government over this matter.

The UN experts who have expressed concern for Ayyub’s security are special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Ahmed Shaheed, special rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonović, special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders, Michel Forst and special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and belief, David Kaye.

Ayyub, who has written a book on the 2002 Gujarat riots, had become the target of an online campaign after a fake tweet attributed to her was circulated on social media.

She also wrote an article in New York Times outlining her experience of online harassment.

“According to information received by the experts, the issue intensified after a malicious Tweet on 20 April falsely quoted Ms Ayyub as supporting child rapists and saying that Muslims were no longer safe in India,” said the press communique.

The experts expressed alarm that a fake pornographic video purporting to show Ayyub was also recently circulated online, triggering new threats.

Expressing their concern about Ayyub’s personal security, the experts also recalled the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh after death threats in September 2017.

They noted that despite Ayyub filing a complaint and an ongoing investigation, she had not received any police protection.

“We call on India to urgently take steps to protect Rana Ayyub and to ensure the threats against her are promptly and thoroughly investigated. The Government has an obligation to provide effective protection to those who receive death threats and to protect individuals from foreseeable threats to life or bodily integrity,” the experts said.

They noted that the government had a responsibility to build a safe environment for independent voices, including those of journalists critical of the authorities.

“We have previously urged the authorities in India to take active steps to reverse a political climate that, in recent years, has become increasingly polarised and hostile, especially to the media and those exercising the freedom of expression,” the experts said.

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