The Editors Guild of India has condemned the intimidating manner in which Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh police have registered FIRs against senior journalists, for reporting on farmers’ protests in Delhi on January 26.
The EGI said it finds these FIRs as an attempt to intimidate, harass, and stifle free media.
The journalists’ body in an official note released Friday morning demanded that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately.
The Guild statement refers to specific incident of reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protesting farmers 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 Guild said.
According to the EGI, “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.”
Six journalists, including India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, National Herald’s Zafar Agha, Caravan’s Ananth Nath, Vinod Jose, and Paresh Nath, were booked by the Noida Police Thursday for sedition, among other charges, over the protest during farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi. The FIR was lodged at the Sector 20 police station following a complaint by a resident who alleged that “digital broadcast” and “social media posts” by these people were responsible for the violence during a tractor rally by farmers in the national capital. Bhopal police also registered a case against these journalists under IPC section 153A (promoting enmity).
“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 added.
The journalists’ body also reiterated the demand that the higher judiciary take serious cognisance of the fact that several laws such as sedition were often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws did not serve as a deterrent to a free press.