Photojournalists demand apology from SG Tushar Mehta for remarks in SC on migrants issue

The All India Working News Cameramen Association (WNCA), the representative organisation of photo and video journalists in the country, strongly condemned the observation of the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta against the photo and video journalists in course of Supreme Court hearing on ‘migrants’ crisis’ on 27 May that they were spreading negativity by flashing the images of the pathetic condition of the migrants on their way to their homes and virtually calling them ‘vultures’ and ‘prophets of doom’.

In a statement issued here on Monday, S N Sinha, President, and Sondeep Shankar, General Secretary of the Working News Cameramen Association (WNCA), said by clicking and recording the migrants’ tragedies in their cameras, the photojournalists, with considerable risk to their well being, were bringing images and bearing witness to the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the partition. They pointed out that the photojournalists were doing their job by bringing the ‘cold and hard truth’ of the migrants’ situation to shake the conscience of the people and spur the government for remedial action.

Sinha and Shankar pointed out that “Tushar Mehta in his enthusiasm to defend the indefensible inaction of the government, misrepresented facts about the picture of Kevin Carter, the Sudanese girl, and the Vulture, implying that the photographer should have helped the girl instead of photographing it. Asa matter of fact, Kevin, the iconic and Pulitzer winning photojournalist shooed away the vulture after capturing the human tragedy.

“The Solicitor General misled the apex court by claiming and using fake news that the celebrated photojournalist committed suicide a few months later because of his guilt feeling of not helping the girl. The fact of the matter was that he committed suicide because of personal, financial problems and devastation brought by witnessing the human tragedies while covering the apartheid atrocities in South Africa and Sudanese famine.”

The WNCA said the purpose of photo and video journalism was to bear witness to the reality and stir conscious of the public to the cruelty of that reality and call the power to account. Two pictures; a starving migrant worker eating a dog carcass, and the other of baby tugging at a cloth covering her dead mother, brought the horrors of migrant workers crisis to the notice of the world, the statement said.

“Unfortunately, the top law officer of the government chose to target the messenger instead of acting on the message in the august precincts of the Supreme Court. We demand that the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta should immediately withdraw his averment and apologise to the photojournalist community. We also urge upon the Press Council of India (PCI) to intervene in the case and urge the Supreme Court to strike down his statement to redeem the honour of the photo and video journalists in the country”, the statement said.

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