Press Institute upset at ‘intimidation’ of journalists

It accuses govt. of bid to prevent media from reporting about pandemic

The International Press Institute (IPI) has condemned the recent turn of events in India, expressing “grave concern over the misuse of the law by authorities... to intimidate journalists and curtail press freedom”.

The statement comes in the backdrop of sedition charges filed by the Gujarat government against Dhaval Patel, owner and editor of the Gujarati news portal, Face of Nation, for writing an article about the possibility of a leadership change in the State owing to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

In Delhi, Mahender Singh Manral, a correspondent of The Indian Express, was summoned for questioning by the police for a report on the police investigation into the possibility that an audio clip of Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalwi had been doctored. In Himachal Pradesh, 10 cases have been registered against 6 journalists for reporting on the misery caused by the lockdown.

“The Indian government has resorted to various tactics to prevent independent media from criticizing the government and reporting about the pandemic. In a blatant attempt to stifle press freedom, on March 31 the government unsuccessfully petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to bar the media from publishing information about COVID-19 that had not been cleared by the government,” the IPI said.

The Press Club of India has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda in some of these cases. The club said an example was sought to be made of Mr. Patel. The other newspapers in Ahmedabad that followed up on the same news had not been threatened. “It is strange that in this case, policemen should arrogate to themselves the right and the authority to be arbiters of the validity of political news and developments,” the club said in a statement.

As for the case of Himachal Pradesh, it said the reporting was legitimate, and the action was an example of high-handed and irregular behaviour by those in authority. “We condemn such actions. They are a blot on our democratic aspirations,” it said.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 9:16:37 AM |

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