Editors Guild strongly condemns ‘targeting’ of journalists over Red Fort violence

The Guild called this as an attack on the democratic values that the country stands for and demanded an immediate withdrawal of the complaints.

The Editors Guild of India on Friday strongly condemned the “intimidating manner” in which several journalists have been targeted for reporting and spreading information on the farmer’s tractor rally and the ensuing violence on Republic Day in the national capital.

Calling it an attempt to “intimidate, harass and stifle” the media, the Guild in a statement demanded that the complaints be “withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear.”

Multiple FIRs have been filed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and several journalists, including India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald’s Mrinal Pandey, Zafar Agha of Qaumi Awaz, and The Caravan’s Anant Nath and Vinod Jose for their tweets and reporting on the Republic Day violence.

Reacting to the cases lodged against Rajdeep Sardesai, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she is surprised how most in the media are silent on the issue. “In our democratic system we must raise our voice. The media is an important pillar of our democracy ,” she said in a tweet.

Calling the targeting of journalists an attack on the democratic values that the country stands for, the Guild further said that the journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protesters 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 FIRs claimed that the tweets were intentionally malicious and therefore played a role in triggering violence at the Red Fort on January 26th. “The complaints have been booked for breaking edition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing,” it said.

The Guild also urged the judiciary to take 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”.

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