‘Unhealthy & Despicable’: Editors Guild on FIR Against Supriya
FIR was slammed by journalists blaming the police and government for attempting to curb the freedom of the press.
A day after the Scroll.in released a statement about the FIR filed against their reputed journalist, Supriya Sharma who is known for her bold reportage, the Editors Guild of India has extended support to Sharma.
In a statement, it said, "In view of the categorical statement from Scroll.in, the Guild is of the view that the use of the various sections of the IPC and the SC/ST Act are an overreaction and will seriously undermine freedom of the media."
Shekhar Gupta, President, AK Bhattacharya, General Secretary and Sheela Bhatt, Treasurer added that the use of criminal provisions of the law against journalists has now become an unhealthy and despicable trend that has no place in any vibrant democracy, and the same needs to be resisted as well as eliminated.
“The Guild respects all laws of the land as also the right of Mala Devi to defend herself against any acts of injustice. But it also finds the flagrant misuse of such laws unjustifiable and reprehensible. Worse, the increasing frequency of such misuse of laws by the authorities is tantamount to shooting the messenger and destroying a key pillar of India’s democracy.”The Editors Guild of India
Earlier today, the Committee to Protect Journalists said authorities in Uttar Pradesh should immediately drop the criminal investigation into journalist Supriya Sharma, and stop legal harassment of journalists.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, General Secretary, Indian National Congress also slammed the UP government for trying to cover the truth by filing an FIR.
“During this disaster on the ground there are severe disturbances. Corrections are possible by showing the truth, but the UP government is getting FIRs made on journalists, former officials, opposition to bring out the truth,” she said.
FIR Filed on Basis of Complaint
An FIR was registered at Varanasi’s Ramnagar police station against Scroll’s Executive Editor Supriya Sharma and its Chief Editor over a report published from Varanasi’s Domari village.The FIR was filed on 13 June, on the basis of a complaint by Mala Devi, a woman from Domari village in Varanasi constituency, quoted in the report, published on 8 June.
Scroll.in released in a statement saying, “Scroll.in interviewed Mala in Domari village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on 5 June 2020. Her statements have accurately been reported in the article titled, ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown’”.
“Scroll.in stands by the article, which has been reported from the prime minister’s constituency. This FIR is an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism, reporting on conditions of vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 lockdown.”Statement by Scroll.in
Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that promotes the cause of press freedom around the world, strongly condemned the action by the Uttar Pradesh police.“In India, independent news portal @scroll_in’s editor @sharmasupriya has just been booked for a report on the effects of the lockdown to combat coronavirus. @RSF_inter condemns in the strongest terms this blatent [blatant] attempt to intimidate one of India’s most resilient reporter!,” read the tweet.
Supriya is a two-time Ramnath Goenka award winner and a recipient of the Chameli Devi Outstanding Woman Journalist award for 2014-15.
Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, in New York said that launching a criminal investigation is ‘a clear intimidation tactic and sends a chilling message to journalists across the country.’ He called for the Uttar Pradesh police to immediately drop the investigation as the journalist was simply doing her job as a journalist.
‘Embarrassing That We Harass Journalists’
The FIR was slammed by many journalists blaming the police and the BJP-led government for attempting to curb the freedom of the press.
Details of the FIR
The FIR was filed under IPC sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and under the SC/ST Act.
The police have also named Scroll.in’s Editor-in-Chief Naresh Fernandes in the FIR.
Sharma had interviewed Mala, a single mother, who had to take care of six members of but was going through a hard time as her employers had stopped paying her during the lockdown. Mala had reportedly told Scroll.in she was a domestic worker and that she did not have a ration card which caused a lot of distress during the lockdown period.
But what made the story grab eyeballs is the fact that they lived in a village adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, Mala Devi in her complaint to the police alleged her comments and identity was misrepresented by the journalist.
She had claimed she was worked as a sanitation worker at the Varanasi city municipality, and not a domestic worker, reported Scroll.in.
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