The Editors Guild of India (EGI) strongly condemned BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh governments for filing FIRs against senior editors and journalists for reporting on the farmers’ protest and the ensuing violence that took place in Delhi on January 26.
It demanded that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately.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 protesters on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent. However, no journalist has been named in the statement.
The death of Navreet Singh, who as per the police accounts died after the tractor he was driving overturned, has become a point of contention.
“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.
The statement said that the claim that the tweets were “intentionally malicious” was false.
“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,” the Guild said. It was disturbing that the FIR had been booked under 10 provisions.
“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 Guild 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.
The Press Club of India too spoke in support of the journalists. “It is noteworthy that these journalists have been attacked by two State governments which are run by the same political party that dominates the Centre, and it will be a striking coincidence if their actions are free from guidance from on high,” the Press Club of India said in a statement here.