The Editors Guild of India has condemned filing of criminal cases against journalists over the farmers’ protest in Delhi on January 26.
The cases have been filed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh against six journalists. All of them face charges including sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity under the Indian Penal Code. The journalists named in the FIR are Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath.
Shashi Tharoor, an MP from Kerala has also been booked in the case.
In a statement issued on Friday, the guild said journalists were 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.
The FIR was lodged at Noida Sector 20 police station following a complaint by a resident who alleged that “digital broadcast” and “social media posts” by these people were responsible for the violence during a tractor rally by farmers in the national capital.
“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, signed by Seema Mustafa, guild president, and Sanjay Kapoor, general secretary, said.
It also noted how the FIRs “allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort”. Nothing can be further from truth, the guild said.
“On a day thick with information, the EGI finds these FIRs, filed in different states, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. That the FIRs have been booked under as many as ten different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing.”