Fatima Nafees, the mother of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed who has been missing since October 15, 2016, has filed a defamation suit in the Delhi High Court against certain media houses for linking her son with terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS).
Fatima, in her suit filed through the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) has impleaded Times of India, Times Now, Dilli Aajtak and also reporters of the Times of India and India Today Group seeking damages of Rs 2.2 crore besides a permanent injunction on publishing/ broadcasting news in any manner.
In the suit filed before the court through advocates Nabila Hasan, Anas Tanwir and Rudro Chatterjee, Fatima said last year in March, there was news in ToI about Delhi Police claiming that Najeeb was browsing for information on ways to join Islamic State as he was watching a video of speech of an IS leader on the night of October 14 before going missing the next day.
She said the reporter did not think it necessary to verify the information which he claimed to have received from sources.
She sought action against an article published in ToI by its reporter on March 21, 2017, which claimed that alleged that a "highly placed police source" had disclosed that forensic reports obtained after an examination of Najeeb’s laptop showed his inclination towards joining ISIS and suggested that this might be the reason for his disappearance as well. It stated that Najeeb’s Google search history included searches for "ways to join IS".
She said even Times Now ran tickers and news with captions like “Najeeb searched for information on ISIS” and “Najeeb an ISIS sympathiser?”, copies of which continue to be available on the Internet and the news trended widely on social media.
Fatima said while the news reports relied on sources in Delhi police, the police soon afterwards stated categorically that nothing in the investigation could suggest that Najeeb accessed IS-related websites.
Fatima also pointed out to the news reports suggesting that Najeeb was on medication for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since 2012.
She said, earlier also, when the case was being widely covered by the media, photographs and videos of her being manhandled by the police were published and also put on social media but she refrained from filing defamation suit then keeping the best interest of her son and the probe in mind.
Fatima had also sent a legal notice to Dilli Aajtak but did not get any response.
The suit said, “It is at the cost of this pathetic attempt to boost their readership that she (Fatima) was subjected to utter humiliation and mental agony which is rooted in the fact that the investigation of her son’s disappearance is still on-going and that news items such as this poison and prejudice the mindset of the public at large.”
The suit also said: “Despite the Delhi police issuing both a statement to the press and a rejoinder explicitly and unambiguously refuting and contradicting the impugned news report, the media house has neither retracted the news report/telecast nor published an apology for the false and malicious reporting.”
The suit sought an immediate retraction of the articles in all forms, an unconditional apology and damages of Rs 2.2 crores.