Loni Case: Editors Guild Slams FIR Against The Wire, Scribes
“It is the duty of the journalists to report on the basis of sources,” the Editors Guild said.
The Editors Guild of India, on Thursday, 17 June, put out a statement condemning the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police against The Wire and several journalists for their tweets over the assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on 5 June.
Stating that it was a “wanton misuse of laws to criminalise reporting and dissent”, the Guild sought immediate withdrawal of the said FIRs.
After the video of a 72-year-old Muslim man, Abdul Samad Saifi, being brutally beaten up in Ghaziabad’s Loni went viral, many shared the video, alleging that the incident was a communally motivated hate crime.
However, refuting such allegations, the police in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad filed an FIR on Tuesday, 15 June, against nine entities.
“The following entities – The Wire, Rana Ayyub, Mohammad Zubair, Dr Shama Mohammed, Saba Naqvi, Maskoor Usmani, Salman Nizami – without checking the fact, started giving communal colour to the incident on Twitter and suddenly they started spreading messages to disrupt the peace and bring differences between the religious communities. (sic)”UP Police
Condemning this act of the Delhi Police, the Editors Guild pointed out that when an alternate version to the story was put out by the UP Police, claiming that the assault was born out of a dispute over a talisman, it was also reported by the media organisations.
The Guild further said that they were “deeply concerned by the UP Police’s track record of filing FIRs against journalists to deter them from reporting such incidents without fear of reprisals”.
“It is the duty of the journalists to report on the basis of sources and in case facts become contested later on, to report the emerging versions and facts. For police to wade into such professional calls by journalists and attribute criminality to their actions is destructive of freedom of speech, which is constitutionally protected and is an entrenched feature of the rule of law.”Editors Guild of India
The Editors’ Guild added that it was “quite evident” that the UP Police had been discriminatory in targeting those media organisations and journalists who have been critical of the government and its policies, even when “thousands had tweeted the video”.
After the Loni video went viral, conflicting versions of what had happened with him emerged.
While Saifi claimed that he was abducted by an auto driver and others and was forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, the Ghaziabad Police said that while the crime against him was heinous, the allegation of him being made to chant slogans was untrue. The fact that the police has arrested one Muslim, has also raised questions on it being a communally motivated hate crime.
There is also a third version. The Quint spoke to the brother of the only Muslim who was arrested in connection to the case. The man said that his brother had been trapped in the case and he had gone to the spot only to help Saifi escape.
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