IE Reporter Questioned: PCI Seeks Report From Delhi Police
“Delhi Police action egregious and high handed,” says Editors Guild of India, condemning the action
Expressing concern over the alleged threat of criminal prosecution and questioning of an Indian Express reporter, the Press Council of India (PCI) sought a report from the Delhi Police Commissioner. This comes after The Indian Express Correspondent Mahender Singh Manral was questioned by the Delhi police on 11 May over a report titled, Tablighi FIR: Police probe indicates Saad audio clip was doctored.
Taking suo-motu cognisance of the matter the PCI stated, “The Press Council of India expresses its concern over alleged threat of criminal prosecution and questioning of a Special Correspondent of the Indian Express, by Delhi police on 11.05.2020 in connection with a news report published in the paper on 9 May 2020.”
The statement further added,
“Since matter affects the free functioning of the press, while taking suo-motu cognizance of the matter, a report on facts of the case is being called for from the Commissioner of Police, Delhi.”
Delhi Police Action ‘Egregious and High Handed’
In a statement released on 13 May, the Editors Guild of India also wrote that it ‘notes with concern a growing pattern of misuse of criminal laws to intimidate journalists in different parts of the country.
Calling the Delhi police action egregious and high handed, the guild added, “On 10 May, the Delhi Police sent a notice to Mahender Singh Manral, Special Correspondent, The Indian Express, through the City Editor and Chief Reporter, The Indian Express, requiring 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 10 May.”
“While Manral wasn’t charged under any law, he was threatened that failure to join the probe could result in legal action under Section 174 of the IPC with punishment of a prison term and fine. This appears to be a little more than a fishing expedition to try and extract the journalist’s source and, thus, warn other reporters.”
The Editors Guild of India condemned the police’s action.
The report filed by Manral on 10 May focussed on how an initial investigation by the Delhi Police Crime Branch found out that the audio clip attributed to Maulana Saad Kandhalvi maybe “doctored” and stitched together using several audio files.
This audio note, attributed to Maulana Saad, allegedly asked Tablighi Jamaat members to not follow social distancing norms and prohibitory orders. The Delhi police has since claimed that the report is ‘factually incorrect’ and ‘based on wholly unverified sources and purely conjectural imagination’.
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