The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday condemned two recent incidents of police action against journalists in Gujarat and Delhi. It noted that there was a growing trend of “misuse of criminal laws to intimidate journalists” in the country.
The first incident the Guild expressed concern over was the Gujarat police booking and detaining Dhaval Patel, editor and owner of Gujarati news portal ‘ Face of Nation ’, for sedition on May 12. The police took the action after the portal published a report suggesting possible leadership change in the State because of the increase in Coronavirus cases.
“The second instance of egregious and high-handed action has come from the Delhi Police,” the Guild said in a statement, referring to the police notice to The Indian Express special correspondent Mahender Singh Manral on May 10.
The notice required “the journalist, who had reported that police investigations found the possibility of the audio clip of Tablighi Jamaat leader, Maulana Saad, being doctored, to join a probe on this matter on May 10”, the Guild said.
While Mr. Manral was not charged under any law, he was threatened to join the probe or face legal action under the Indian Penal Code. “This appears to be a little more than a fishing expedition to try and extract the journalist’s source and, thus, warn other reporters.”
These police actions were “deeply disturbing”, the Guild noted. “The government and the police must recognise that the media is an integral part of the governance structure in any democracy. The Guild condemns these actions and asks the state and central governments to desist from misusing the law to threaten the free press,” it added.