Withdraw sedition charges against senior journalists immediately : Editors Guild

By Special Correspondent

New Delhi: The Editors Guild on Friday demanded immediate withdrawal of the cases against senior editors and journalists, including current and former office bearers of the guild for reporting on the farmers’ protest rallies. It also condemned the “intimidating manner” in which police registered FIRs for sedition and other charges against senior editors and journalists.

In a statement, 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. It also demanded that the media be allowed to report “without fear and with freedom”.

The Noida police booked Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Vinod K Jose (Caravan) and others for sedition. An FIR lodged at the Sector-20 police station on Thursday stated that they were booked for tweeting and spreading fake news pertaining to the death of a farmer during the tractor rally on January 26, 2021.The FIR also names Zafar Agha, the Group Editor-in-Chief of National Herald, and Ananth Nath, the Editor of Caravan.

“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 Editors’ Guild statement, signed by President Seema Mustafa, and general secretary Sanjay Kapoor 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.”

The statement underlined that  the “targeting” of journalists “grievously violates and tramples on every value that our democratic republic stands for.”

 “We also re-iterate our earlier demand that the higher judiciary takes serious cognizance of the fact that several laws such as a sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press,” it further said.

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