Editors Guild slams FIRs against journalists over Republic Day violence

The FIRs allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort, the Guild noted
Last Updated 17 August 2021, 07:06 IST

The Editors Guild of India on Friday condemned the slapping of sedition charges on senior editors and journalists for their reporting on the farmers' protest rallies and the ensuing violence that erupted during the tractor rally on Republic Day.

The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) also "unequivocally" condemned the Uttar Pradesh Police’s action and described it as an "attempt to browbeat the media and push it to fall in line".

Demanding that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom, the Editors Guild reiterated its demand that the higher judiciary takes serious cognizance of the fact that several laws such as sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press.

The Editors Guild's statement came a day after Uttar Pradesh Police registered a case under sedition against India Today TV's Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald's Zafar Agha and Mrinal Pande and Caravan's Paresh Nath, Ananth Nath and Vinod K Jose for their tweet on a farmer's death during the protest. Senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is also named in this FIR.

"The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the intimidating manner in the way in which the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Police have registered FIRs against senior editors and journalists...," a statement said.

It said the journalists have been "specifically targeted" for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protestors on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent.

"It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice," the statement said.

The FIRs alleged that the tweets were "intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration" of the Red Fort. "Nothing can be further from the truth. On a day thick with information, the EGI finds these FIRs, filed in different states, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. That the FIRs have been booked under as many as ten different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing," it added.

This targeting of journalists grievously violates and tramples on every value that our democratic republic stands for. It is intended to grievously hurt the media and prevent it from working as an independent watchdog of Indian democracy, the statement said. It added, the IWPC said Pande and the others have duly acknowledged their "genuine mistake, taken responsibility for it and deleted their posts".

"Ms Pande and the others have risen to the top of our profession because of their impeccable integrity. They command the respect of the public across the country. To attribute malafide intent against her and the other journalists charged is a ham-handed attempt at besmirching their reputation," it added.

(Published 29 January 2021, 06:48 IST)

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