Farm stir: Media bodies condemn action against journos

Media bodies condemn action against journalists during farmers' tractor rally

Freelance journalists Mandeep Punia was detained by Delhi Police for 'misbehaving with cops on duty' at protest site

Journalist groups on Sunday condemned the registration of sedition cases against senior media personalities in connection with farmers' tractor rally and the detention of a freelance journalists Mandeep Punia and Dharmender Singh, saying these incidents interfered with their right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

In a statement, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India and the Press Association said that such crackdowns impinge on the media’s right to report freely.

They said that Punia and Singh were detained up by Delhi Police on January 30 evening from Singhu Border farmers protest site. While Singh was later released, Mandeep still remains in police custody.

Also Read | Freelance journalist arrested for 'misbehaving' with police at Singhu border

Punia, who was picked up on Saturday, was placed under arrest on Sunday by the police alleging that he misbehaved with the police personnel on duty at the farmers' protest site.

"Mandeep Punia is a young freelance journalist who contributes to The Caravan and Janpath. The Delhi Police used brutal force while picking up Mandeep and did not share his whereabouts with other media colleagues the entire night. The copy of the FIR against Mandeep was issued only this morning. Four IPC sections -- 186, 353, 332, 34 -- have been pressed against him", the three organisations said.

Mandeep has been reporting on the present farmers’ agitation right from the beginning and his arrest is part of the government crackdown on journalists to prevent them from doing their job independently and freely, it said demanding his release.

"No journalist should be disturbed while carrying out their duties at any place. Such crackdowns impinge on the media’s right to report freely and interfere with our right to freedom of expression, and freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution of India," it added.

On Saturday evening, the Editors Guild of India and Press Club of India held a meeting during which a resolution expressing "deep disapproval" of the action of the governments to seek to disrupt the work of journalists to inform the people.

The resolution came after multiple FIRs were registered in at least six states against journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, Ananth Nath and Vinod K Jose charging them under sections including that of sedition after they tweeted about the death of a farmer in police firing during the protest, which was denied by police. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was also named in these FIRs.

"This meeting demands that governments withdraw the criminal charges, including that of sedition, against the editors and publications brought on the 28th January, 2021, and all the journalists in the country in recent years. We also seek that governments to stop pressurising news organisations. We further demand the scrapping of the anti-democratic sedition law and the ending of the dangerous, motivated, and misguided use of laws like UAPA against journalists as these are meant for terrorists," the resolution said.

"We resolve to carry out a campaign in this regard if the plainly motivated charges against journalists are not immediately dropped. Our struggle will be within the ambit of the Constitution. In this endeavour, we shall bring to bear all strength at our command," it added.