Monday, December 4, 2023

Supreme Court grants interim protection to Editors Guild members in cases over Manipur fact-finding report

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim protection from police action to members of the Editors Guild of India on the two FIRs filed against them for releasing a report on media coverage of Manipur violence.

The cases have been filed against the authors of the fact-finding report – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor – and the president of the Editors Guild of India, Seema Mustafa.

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan had mentioned the matter before a bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The Editors Guild was seeking directions from the top court to quash the two FIRs. The court will next hear the matter on September 11.

The FIRs were registered under the sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to promoting enmity between groups, injuring or defiling a place of worship, uttering words with deliberate intent to hurt religious feelings and statements conducing to public mischief.

The FIR is based on the complaint filed by one Ngangom Sarat, a Meitei activist. He said that the report is false in entirety and “sponsored by Kuki militants.”

The compliant refers to one photo caption in the report. The caption, the complaint said, said that smoke was rising from a Kuki home – but it was in fact the home of a forest official. The Editor’s Guild had recognised the error in caption and said on X, “We regret the error that crept in at the photo editing stage.”

The EGI report had said that several reports on violence coming out of Manipur were “one-sided”. The media based out of Imphal, according to the EGI report, had “transformed into Meitei media”.

“This is a strong arm tactic by the state government which amounts to intimidation of the apex media body of the country,” read a statement by Press Club of India.

“At a time when violence-marred Manipur needs utmost attention of the government, such a move by the state government would only make the matters worse and would be seen as a deliberate attempt to suppress the
truth. It is a case of shooting the messenger rather than taking measures to restore peace in the state,” read the statement.

This is the second fact-finding team that has seen police action after publishing a report on Manipur. In July, a case was registered against the members of the National Federation of Indian Women’s team in Manipur.

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