IWPC Slams FIR Against Editors’ Guild of India in Manipur
Image Courtesy: Twitter
The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) has expressed “deep concern” at the registration of an FIR against the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI) president and three members of a fact-finding team that visited Manipur between August 7 and 10.
The FIR was lodged by an Imphal West-based social worker named N Sarat Singh against EGI President Seema Mustafa and three senior journalists Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor on Monday after they published a report on the media’s reportage of Manipur’s ethnic violence on September 2.
EGI releases the Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Media’s Reportage of the Ethnic Violence in Manipur.
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) September 2, 2023
The four journalists were booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between two communities), 200 (using false declaration as true) and 298 (deliberate intent to wound religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code.
According to the FIR, Singh, who claims to have been “working locally to bring peace and help the people stranded in relief camps”, alleged the EGI report is “false, fabricated and a paid news and sponsored by Kuki militants”, The Hindu reported.
During a press conference in Imphal on Monday, chief minister (CM) N Biren Singh termed the EGI members “anti-State, anti-national and anti-establishment who came to pour venom” and their report “totally one-sided”. “Had I known it before, I would not have allowed them to enter,” he added.
Foreign force’s behind Manipur violence !!
FIR filed against Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, Bharat Bhushan, and Editors Guild of India President at Imphal West police station over alleged "false, fabricated, sponsored" report on Manipur. pic.twitter.com/TIskUuHtlE
— Megh Updates 🚨™ (@MeghUpdates) September 4, 2023
The IWPC said that the “FIR … lists a range of offences, including Section 66A of the IT Act, declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court eight years ago”.
“One of the offences relates to the publication of an erroneous caption which was rectified by the authors of the report,” it said. “The EGI expressed regret for the error and also rectified an erroneous caption in its report, which seems to have been the immediate basis for the complaint and FIR.”
The CM accused the EGI of “trying to instigate more clashes”, the IWPC added.
According to the IWPC, the FIR includes as many as “11 sections of the IPC, including all major IPC offences listed by the complainant, all of which are punishable by imprisonment”.
The EGI is a 45-year-old non-profit institution aimed to protect press freedom and raise the standards of editorial leadership, it said. “It is among the leading apex and independent bodies in the media that stand for press freedom. Many of its founding stalwarts were those who stood against the Emergency.”
Mentioning that the EGI has “consistently stood for the rights of the media”, the IWPC said, “The registration of an FIR against such a body ill behoves the largest democracy in the world.”
The IWPC demanded immediate quashing of the charges “more so when the erroneous caption has been removed from the report”.
On Monday, the Press Club of India also strongly condemned the lodging of the FIR. “The Press Club of India strongly condemns [the] lodging of a police case against 3 members of a fact-finding committee of the Editors Guild of India and its president on the media coverage of the ethnic clash and violence in Manipur,” it said in a statement posted on X.
Press Club of India strongly condemns lodging of a police case against 3 members of a fact-finding committee of the Editors Guild of India and its president on the media coverage of the ethnic clash and violence in Manipur. pic.twitter.com/s4ZdokGOXo
— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) September 4, 2023
The DIGIPUB News India Foundation also condemned he FIR and termed it as “an act of intimidation” and “an attack on the freedom of the press”.
DIGIPUB’s statement condemning the FIR against the Editors Guild of India. pic.twitter.com/25mwvPUn9J
— DIGIPUB News India Foundation (@DigipubIndia) September 4, 2023
As per the EGI report, the “ethnic divide in the media was so deep that news stories, as well as editorials, began to blame [the] Assam Rifles for protecting the Kuki tribals.”
The report added: “During the ethnic violence, journalists of Manipur wrote one-sided reports. In normal circumstances, they would be cross-checked and monitored by their editors or chiefs of bureaus from the local administration, [the] police and security forces. However, this was not possible during the conflict.”
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