The Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has released a statement expressing their concern with “the framing of accusations by the government in its status report before the Supreme Court of India on 31 March 2020, in the matter of Alakh Alok Srivastava versus Union of India.”
The report filed by the government had sought increased restrictions on media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming the mass migration of migrant workers to be a result of fake news. The statement released by FMP states that, “While it may be true that not all news gathering is credible and some could indeed be patently false, to draw a direct link between this and the flight of migrants from various parts of the country requires evidence to this effect. To lay this squarely at the door of the media is to deflect potential blame from the government and from various state agencies. Especially when this is done without providing the evidence for it. Further, equating unverified WhatsApp/social media messages with the news is disingenuous and damaging to the credibility of the media.”
Expressing fears about misuse of the SC order on the petition, the statement further says that they hope “this order does not take away from the media’s constitutionally mandated freedom to pursue the truth even when it is at variance with the state’s version of matters. Similarly, it must be borne in mind that the court did clarify that it did not “intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic”.”
The FMP has also put forth the following demands to protect the rights of journalists amid the lockdown where in there have been instances of attacks on members of press.
1. That the Central Government furnish specific instances of “fake news” to
substantiate its allegation before the Supreme Court that the media was culpable for
the exodus of migrant workers.
2. That the Central and state government take strict action against all those trenching
on the media freedom amidst the pandemic by issuing threats, booking baseless FIRs
and abusing the police and official machinery to brow-beat journalists.
The full statement is given below.
FMP Statement Fight Virus Not Press Freedom by Newsclick on Scribd