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Editor’s Guild slams FIRs against journalists over R-Day violence

The Editors Guild of India on Friday strongly condemned the filing of FIRs against senior editors and journalists for their reporting on the farmers’ tractor rally and the ensuing violence here on Republic Day, saying it was an attempt to “intimidate, harass and stifle” the media.

In a statement, the Guild demanded that such FIRs be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom.

It said journalists have been 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 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 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 Guild said.

The Editors Guild said it “strongly condemns the intimidating manner in the way in which the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Police” have registered FIRs against senior editors and journalists (including current and former office-bearers of EGI) for reporting on the farmers’ protest rallies and the ensuing violence that took place in the national capital on January 26.

The FIRs allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort, the Guild noted, asserting that nothing can be further from truth.

“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,” the Guild said.

That the FIRs have been booked under a total of 10 different provisions, including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing, it said.

“This targeting of journalists grievously violates and tramples on every value that our democratic republic stands for. It is intended to grievously hurt the media and prevent it from working as an independent watchdog of Indian democracy,” the statement said.

“We demand that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom,” the Guild said.

The Guild also reiterated its 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”.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six journalists have been booked by the Noida Police for sedition, among other charges, over the violence during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi, officials said on Thursday.

The FIR was lodged 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.

The journalists named in the FIR are Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath. An unidentified person has also been named in the FIR.