Editors Guild condemns FIRs against journalists and editors by M.P. and U.P. police

Published : January 29, 2021 16:37 IST

Security personnel deployed at the Red Fort after violence on Republic Day during the farmers' tractor rally. Photo: Moorthy RV

The Editors Guild of India has strongly condemned the “intimidating manner in which the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Police have registered FIRs against senior editors and journalists (including current and former office-bearers of EGI)” reporting on the farmers’ protest rallies and the violence thereafter in Delhi on Republic Day.

In a press statement issued today, and signed by its president Seema Mustafa and general secretary Sanjay Kapoor, the Editors Guild said the “journalists have been specifically targeted for 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.”

It pointed out that in a situation where reports were “emerging from eyewitnesses” and from the police “it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice.”

According to media reports, one of the FIRs lodged in Uttar Pradesh named Congress politician Shashi Tharoor, senior journalist and India Today TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, the Caravan’s Managing Founding Editor Paresh Nath and Managing Editor Ananth Nath (Treasurer of the Editors Guild) and Executive Editor Vinod K. Jose, National Herald’s Senior Consulting Editor Mrinal Pande, and Qaumi Awaz Editor Zafar Agha.

The statement said, “The FIRs allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort,” and noted, “Nothing can be further from the truth.” The EGI went on to say that it “finds these FIRs, filed in different States, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media”. The fact that the FIRs had been registered under “ten different provisions, including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony and insulting religious beliefs” was “disturbing”, the statement said.

It demanded that the FIRs “be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom”. The Editors Guild reiterated its demand that “the higher judiciary take serious cognisance of the fact that several laws such as sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech.”