The Editors Guild of India on Friday voiced apprehension over the abuse of criminal defamation laws against journalists. This comes after the Jharkhand Police filed charges against the chief editor and two others linked to the Hindi newspaper Prabhat Khabar for their coverage on certain members of the state’s liquor mafia.
The Jharkhand Police have booked chief editor of Prabhat Khabar Ashutosh Chaturvedi, Resident Editor Vijay Kant Pathak and the organisation’s Managing Director Rajeev Jhawar under sections 469 (forgery), 501 (printing defamatory statements) and 502 (selling prints that carry defamatory statements) of the Indian Penal Code.
The FIR was lodged following a complaint by Jogendra Tiwari, currently incarcerated in Ranchi jail for money laundering charges. This complaint was prompted by Prabhat Khabar’s publication of a report on December 28, detailing the alleged crimes listed in the chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate against Tiwari. A day after the report was published by the newspaper, Tiwari had allegedly made threat calls to Chaturvedi.
Chaturvedi had filed a complaint to the police and the matter was sent to the Crime Investigation Department.
“The guild reiterates its earlier demands and urges the state government and the police to complete the investigation into earlier complaint of Mr Chaturvedi,” the Editors Guild of India said in a statement. “The guild also expresses its deep concern on the misuse of criminal defamation laws against journalists in an effort to intimidate and harass them.”
The press body said that it has been a long-standing demand of the guild that criminal defamation law be scrapped, and such matters be left to be adjudicated in the civil domain.