Fatima Nafees files defamation suit against Times of India, Times Now, Dilli Aaj Tak for spreading defamatory fake news against son, Najeeb Ahmed
Fatima Nafees, the mother of missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, last week filed a suit in the Delhi high court through Human Rights Law Network against some prominent media outlets for civil defamation, seeking damages of Rs 2.2 crores along with a prayer for permanent injunction. She filed the suit against Times of India, Times Now, and Dilli Aaj Tak, as well as Times of India and India Today Group reporters. The suit seeks action against an article published in ToI by its reporter on March 21, 2017, which claimed that alleged "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". Further, Times of India also printed on its newspaper headlines such as, “Delhi Police has claimed that Najeeb was watching a video of the speech of an IS leader on the night of October 14” and “Missing JNU student saw IS videos: Cops” – all claims that were false, baseless, derogatory, malicious and defamatory. The suit claims that this news organisation did not attempt to verify the authenticity of the said forensic reports. Times Now too ran captions and ‘tickers’ that read, among other things, “Sources: Najeeb searched for information on ISIS”, “Laptop hard disk analysis shocks”, "Sensational twist to Najeeb case", “Najeeb browsed ISIS propaganda videos” and “Najeeb an ISIS sympathiser?”. Copies of the video continue to exist on the internet and have trended on social media. However, chief spokesperson of the Delhi Police, Dependra Pathak, and DCP, PRO, Delhi Police, Madhur Verma, soon afterwards stated categorically that nothing in the investigation could suggest that Najeeb accessed IS-related websites. The suit said, “It is at the cost of this pathetic attempt to boost their readership that [Fatima Nafees] 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.” It also observed that “despite the Delhi police issuing both a statement to the press and a rejoinder explicitly and unambiguously refuting and contradicting the impugned news report [Times of India, India Today Group and Dilli Aaj Tak] have neither retracted the news report/telecast nor published an apology for the false and malicious reporting.” The suit seeks an immediate retraction of the articles in all forms, an unconditional apology and damages of Rs 2.2 crores. We will keep updating this case as it develops. Watch this space for more.