Editors Guild of India Moves Apex Court Against Manipur FIRs, SC Offers Protection
New Delhi: On September 6, The Editor’s Guild of India (EGI) moved the Supreme Court against the First Information Reports (FIRs) by the Manipur Police against the Guild's President, Seema Mustafa, as well as three other members – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor. The SC has protected the four members of the EGI against coercive action till Monday in the two FIRs lodged against them in Manipur.
The EGI expressed its deep concern over the registration of FIRs against the four members who constituted a fact-finding team that recently visited Manipur to assess and document media coverage of ethnic clashes within the state.
In its official statement released on September 5, the Guild highlighted its dismay at the intimidating statements made by Manipur's Chief Minister, Mr N Biren Singh, in response to the report produced by the fact-finding team.
"The Guild had received several representations from civil society as well as the Indian Army, expressing concerns that the media in Manipur was playing a partisan role in the ongoing ethnic conflict between the majority Meitei community and the Kuki-Chin minority," the statement read.
In response to these concerns, the Guild had dispatched a three-member team to Manipur, tasked with evaluating media reportage in the state and the impact of internet shutdowns.
During their visit, the team engaged with a wide range of stakeholders, including reporters, editors, representatives from the Editors Guild of Manipur, members of the All Manipur Working Journalists Union, civil society activists, public intellectuals, women affected by the violence, tribal spokespeople, and representatives of security forces operating in Manipur.
The resulting report made public on September 2, 2023, aimed to facilitate introspection and reflection on the media's role in such a sensitive situation.
However, the Guild expressed deep concern over the Manipur state government's response to the report. "Rather than addressing the concerns raised in the report in a constructive manner, the state government has chosen to file FIRs invoking multiple provisions of the IPC (Indian Penal Code)," the statement emphasised.
The Guild also noted that it had promptly acknowledged and rectified an error identified in a photo caption within the report, demonstrating its willingness to engage in dialogue.
The Guild found Chief Minister N Biren Singh's characterisation of the journalists' body as "anti-State" and "anti-national" deeply troubling, particularly in light of the Indian government's emphasis on the country's democratic principles and commitment to freedom of speech, especially as India prepares for the upcoming G20 summit.
In conclusion, the Editors Guild of India urged the Manipur state government to withdraw the FIRs, emphasising the Guild's commitment to fostering a constructive dialogue on media conduct during sensitive situations.
The Guild's statement reaffirmed its dedication to its core mission of promoting responsible journalism and freedom of the press while fostering an environment conducive to constructive discussion and growth within the media industry.
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