The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Thursday demanded that the FIR lodged by the Uttar Pradesh Police against a news portal and some journalists for circulating a video clip of an elderly Muslim man on social media be withdrawn immediately. It said this wanton use of the law to criminalise reporting and dissent to harass independent media was condemnable.
The EGI condemns the filing of the FIRs by the Uttar Pradesh government against The Wire and several journalists, for their tweets on an assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on June 5, the EGI said in a statement. It demanded that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately.
The Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday had filed a first information report (FIR) against Twitter Inc, Twitter Communications India, news portal The Wire, scribes Mohammad Zubair and Rana Ayyub and senior journalist and author Saba Naqvi as well as Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and Sama Mohammad for sharing on social media a video clip in which an elderly Muslim says he was thrashed by some people and forced to chant Jai Sri Ram.
Several media organisations and journalists, besides the ones charged by the police, posted this video on their social media feeds, the Guild said. Subsequently, there was an alternative version offered by the Uttar Pradesh Police claiming that the assault was borne out of a dispute regarding a talisman’ that the elderly man had sold to some people, which was also reported by these media organisations and journalists, it added.
The Guild is deeply concerned by the UP police’s track record of filing FIRs against journalists to deter them from reporting serious incidents without fear of reprisals, the EGI said. The Guild said it is the duty of the journalists to report on the basis of the sources and in case the facts become contested, later on, to report the emerging versions and facets.
For the police to wade into such professional calls by the journalists and attribute criminality to their actions is destructive of freedom of speech, which is constitutionally protected and is an entrenched feature of the rule of law, the EGI said. Further it is quite evident that the police have been discriminatory in targeting those media organisations and the journalists when thousands had tweeted the video that has been critical of the government and its policies, it added.