New Delhi: Journalist bodies on Monday condemned the registration of an FIR against the president and three members of the Editors Guild of India after it published a report of its fact-finding committee on the media coverage of the ethnic violence in Manipur.
Terming it a case of “shooting the messenger”, they said the action against the guild ill behoves the largest democracy in the world and the FIR should be withdrawn immediately.
The Manipur Police has filed an FIR against the Editors Guild of India for allegedly promoting enmity between two communities, among other charges, over its report.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the guild’s members were “trying to create more clashes in the state of Manipur” and had “come to pour venom”.
In a statement issued here, the Press Club of India (PCI) demanded the withdrawal of the FIR.
“It is a case of shooting the messenger rather than taking measures to restore peace in the state. We demand that the FIR against Editors Guild of India (EGI) president Seema Mustafa and the three members be withdrawn immediately,” it said.
The Manipur Police registered the FIR invoking several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, which has been struck down by the Supreme Court, it said.
“This is a strong-arm tactic by the state government which amounts to intimidation of the apex media body of the country,” it added.
In its report on the media coverage of the ethnic violence in Manipur, the EGI said journalists in the northeastern state wrote one-sided reports, internet ban impacted their ability to communicate with each other and the state government played a partisan role in the ethnic conflict.
The three-member fact-finding team, comprising EGI members Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor, reported that the media in Manipur seemed to have become “Meitei media” with editors consulting each other and agreeing on a common narrative to report an incident.
The Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) said the registration of an FIR against the EGI, which has consistently stood for the rights of the media, ill behoves the largest democracy in the world.
“The IWPC demands and urges the Manipur government to quash the charges more so when the erroneous caption has been removed from the report,” it said.
One of the points mentioned in the FIR was an erroneous caption of a photograph of a house on fire.
The EGI said it had rectified the error and updated the report.
“We regret the error that crept in at the photo editing stage,” it said.
The Manipur Police booked the four for allegedly trying to create more clashes in the state rocked by ethnic strife for nearly four months.
The EGI report said with the internet suspended and communication and transport in disarray, the media had to rely almost entirely on the narrative of the state government.
“This narrative under the N Biren Singh dispensation became a narrow ethnic one, playing up to the biases of the majority Meitei community,” the report said.
“The state government also tacitly supported this vilification by allowing the Manipur Police to file an FIR against the Assam Rifles, suggesting that one hand of the State did not know what the other was doing or this was a deliberate action,” it said.
“There are clear indications that the leadership of the state became partisan during the conflict. It should have avoided taking sides in the ethnic conflict but failed to do its duty as a democratic government which should have represented the entire state,” the report said.