The Press Club of India has strongly condemned the FIR filed against the president of Editors Guild of India and its three members for their report on the Manipur violence and called for immediate withdrawal of the same.
In a release on Monday, PCI president Umakant Lakhera and its secretary general Vinay Kumar stated that the “Press Club of India strongly condemns lodging of filing a police case against three members of a fact finding committee of the Editors Guild of India and its president on the media coverage of the ethnic clashes and violence in Manipur”.
Stating that the police have evoked Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act even though the provision has been struck down by the Supreme Court, the PCI maintained that the apex court has directed, on multiple occasions, that nobody should be prosecuted under the provision.
RELATED: FIR against Editors Guild
The entire issue revolves around the role of the media, and it is evident that the Editor’s guild did a commendable job by sending a fact-finding team to check the ground situation and information which are being suppressed, the PCI said.
The PCI termed the filing of a police case a “strong arm tactic by the state government which amounts to intimidation of the apex media of the country”.
The PCI further stated that such a move by the state government, at a time when violence-marred Manipur needs utmost attention of the government, would only make the matters worse and would be seen as a deliberate attempt to suppress the case.
It is a case of shooting the messenger rather than taking measures to restore peace in the state, the Press Club of India stated.
The North-East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS) has also strongly condemned the FIR registered against the members of a fact-finding team of the Editors’ Guild of India and its president.
The FIR has been filed under section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, NEFIS said, adding, it should be noted that this draconian section which allows the government to arrest any person for “offensive and menacing” online posts was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015.
On various occasions, the Supreme Court has issued directives reiterating that nobody should be prosecuted under the provision, NEFIS said, adding that the FIR also includes charges pertaining to promoting enmity between groups, injuring or defiling a place of worship, uttering words with deliberate intent to hurt religious feelings and statements conducing to public mischief, and Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (criminal misconduct by a public servant).
The Editors’ Guild of India report on Manipur Media during the ongoing crisis brings out the partisan and one-sided role of mainstream media outlets in Manipur. Moreover, the media reports during the crisis have been unverified by the bureau chiefs, contrary to what is normally done, the forum said.
The forum further stated that even fake news was, thus, spread as authentic reporting. The report also points out many instances wherein fake news had been reported, thereby spreading disinformation. The report views these instances as further fuelling the divide in the state along community lines, it stated.
It is condemnable that even impartial reports are sought to be curbed by the state government, and media persons bringing out the truth are being vilified and intimidated. It amounts to shooting the messenger bringing forth the harsh truth, NEFIS said, reiterating that it strongly condemns the filing of the FIR against EGI members and demands that it should be immediately withdrawn.