Union Asks Village Council to Drop Complaint Against Journalist

Village council in Meghalaya had filed a police complaint against the Shillong Times editor over a Facebook post.

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Union Asks Village Council to Drop Complaint Against Journalist
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The Indian Journalists Union on Wednesday, 8 July, issued a statement expressing “serious concern” regarding the police complaint filed by the Lawsohtun village in Meghalaya against Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim.

On 3 July, six youths were brutally assaulted by 20-25 masked miscreants at Lawsohtun. Mukhim had posted about the incident on Facebook, saying it was “unacceptable”, and asked why the ‘dorbar shnong’, or village council of Lawsohtun was not able to find out who had been involved in the clash, and why they shouldn’t “lead the charge and identify those murderous elements?”

Local leaders argued that the clash was an unexpected one between two groups “playing together”, and that Mukhim’s statement was unfortunate and irresponsible, inciting communal tension.

The headman of the dorbar shnong, Lurshai Shylla and the secretary, Bankhrawkupar Sohtun, filed a complaint with the police saying the statement by Mukhim could incite communal tension which may spread to the entire state, and that it also defamed not just the village council, but the whole village.

Indian Journalists Union president Geetartha Pathak (a former member of the Press Council) and Sabina Inderjit, vice president of the International Federation of Journalists, suggested that if the council is aggrieved by Mukhim’s post on Facebook, or any article by her, it could have issued a clarification instead of filing a police complaint.

Instead, the action taken by them threatens freedom of speech, they say.

“Filing police case for an opinion or any posting in social media/report in newspapers/electronic media/portals against a journalist is nothing but violation of freedom of press and freedom of speech.”
IJU statement

The IJU therefore appealed to the dorbar shnong to withdraw their complaint, and instead express its side of the story in a press release. “Since a village council is a democratic institution,” they write, “it is expected it follow norms and respect for freedom of press.”

The IJU leaders struck a conciliatory note at the end of the statement, and asked that the matter be settled through “dialogue and mutual understanding”, in light of freedom of speech, as well as responsibility on socially sensitive issues.

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