The Editors Guild of India has strongly condemned filing of police cases filed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh against six journalists over the farmers' protest in Delhi that took a violent turn on January 26. The body has demanded that the Supreme Court should take cognisance of repeated use of sedition charges to impede freedom of speech.
Editors Guild of India and Indian Women's Press Corp demanded that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately and said, "The emerging developments in the farmers protest rally was reported by the journalists which were in line with the established norms of journalistic practice," reported Times of India.
Earlier, FIRs were lodged in Uttar Pradesh against senior journalist and India Today TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, Caravan's Managing Founder Editor Paresh Nath and Managing Editor Ananth Nath and Executive Editor Vinod K Jose, National Herald's Senior Consulting Editor Mrinal Pandey, Qaumi Awaz Editor Zafar Agha and Congress politician Shashi Tharoor.
Signed by its president Seema Mustafa and general secretary Sanjay Kapoor, the Editors Guild of India released a press statement that read, "The FIR alleges that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort. Nothing can be further from the truth. We find these FIRs, filed in different states, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. The fact that the FIRs had been registered under 10 different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony and insulting religious beliefs was disturbing."
"We demand that these FIRs be withdrawn immediately, and media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom. We also demand that the higher judiciary take serious cognisance of the fact that several laws such as sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech," the body said.
"Journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protestors on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent. It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice," the statement read.
The FIRs against the Congress leader and 6 journalists were filed at a police station in Noida and all the individuals named in the FIR will face charges including sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The FIR was registered based on a complaint by a resident of the city near Delhi, who alleged "digital broadcasts" and "social media posts" by the Congress leader and the journalists, who claimed that a farmer had been shot dead by the Delhi Police, led to the violence at Red Fort and other parts of Delhi.