Toothless Editors Guild of India Condemns Police Action on Journalists

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO
Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

While EGI is a toothless outfit, it keeps issuing shallow statements which are ignored by the authorities and people who are supposed to follow them.

By RMN News Service

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has criticized an oppressive police action on Indian journalists who had commented on the ongoing farmers’ protests in and around New Delhi.

The Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) 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 26th January.

Six journalists – Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, and Anant Nath – face multiple charges including sedition, criminal conspiracy, and promoting enmity under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

While EGI is a toothless outfit, it keeps issuing shallow statements which are ignored by the authorities and people who are supposed to follow them.

In a statement issued on January 29, the EGI 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.

Editor’s Note

Today there is no organization in the world that is working effectively to protect journalists from state excesses and police brutality. Although UNESCO and other UN agencies keep releasing loose statements and random reports about media freedom, they too have failed miserably to protect journalists in different countries.

Similarly, the NGOs – such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch – that claim to be working for press freedom and protection of journalists operate only as secondary news outlets.

They lift news from here and there about attacks on journalists and simply publish it under their own banners on their websites. They cannot influence and change the brutal decisions of the authorities that are unleashing terror on journalists.

By Rakesh Raman

It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, according to the EGI, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the 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 FIRs allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort. Nothing can be further from the truth, the EGI argues.

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. That the FIRs have been booked under as many as ten different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing.

According to the EGI, 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.

“We demand that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom. We also reiterate our 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,” the EGI said in its statement.

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Rakesh Raman