Editor’s Guild & IJU Express Concern Over FIRs Against Journalists

“This targeting of journalists grievously violates and tramples on every value that our democracy stands for.”

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The Editor’s Guild of India (EGI) as well as the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) on Friday, 29 January condemned the FIRs registered against journalists and senior editors for their reports on the unrest during the farmer’s tractor rally on Republic Day and demanded their immediate withdrawal.

The EGI’s press note read, “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 further stated that reporting conflicting accounts from eyewitnesses present at the frenzied event is very natural and in line with the norms of the journalistic practice.

Citing the allegation that the tweets were “intentionally malicious” and the reason for the vandalism of the Red Fort, the EGI said “nothing could be farther from truth.”

The editor’s body also expressed that it finds the FIRs to be an attempt to “intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media,” and appealed to the judiciary, saying that it should take “serious cognisance of the fact that several laws such as a sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press.”

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai and five other journalists including Mrinal Pande, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath were booked for sedition by Noida Police on Thursday. The FIR stated that they shared misinformed news and ‘instigated violence’ on 26 January.

On Friday, a similar FIR was registered in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal against the Congress MP and the senior journalists for posting “defamatory, false & instigating” tweets which falsely accused the Delhi Police of murdering of a person, ANI reported.

IJU Expresses Concern Over UP’s Misuse of Sedition Law

The Indian Journalists Union also issued a statement, expressing concern over the “undue haste” shown by the UP government and its police while ‘targeting’ journalists and booking them under sedition laws.

The statement takes cognisance of two such incidents. The first one is that of the journalists and senior editors being booked for sharing unverified news during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day. Meanwhile, the second is of the three journalists who were booked for alleging on a local TV channel that the Kanpur Dehat district officials made government school children “shiver in biting cold” during an event to mark UP Diwas on 24 January.

The IJU President and former member of Press Council of India, Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit stated that “the UP government’s record of intimidation of journalists and misusing the sedition law is getting worse, revealing contempt for press freedom and freedom of expression.”

The Union called the FIR accusing the journalists of building ‘insurrection against the Indian Republic,’ “preposterous” and asked for the FIRs to be withdrawn immediately. They have also written written to the Prime Minister to “bring a halt to misuse of sedition law to browbeat the media.”

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