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Editors Guild of India ‘shocked’ at Tripura Police FIR against journalists, seeks fair probe

Journalists' body says the move reveals an ‘extremely disturbing trend’ of a harsh law being used for merely reporting communal violence. Here’s the full statement.

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New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India released a statement Sunday, expressing shock at Tripura Police’s decision to file an FIR against 102 people, including journalists, in connection with the incidents of alleged communal violence witnessed in the state late last month.

On Friday, the Tripura Police filed the FIR at West Agartala police station, invoking the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and IPC sections of 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153B, 469, 471, 503 (criminal intimidation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 120B (criminal conspiracy).

The FIR names 102 social media accounts, including those of Indian and international journalists like Shyam Meera Singh, Aarif Shah and C.J. Werleman.

Here’s the full text of the Editors Guild statement:

The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked by the Tripura Police’s action of booking 102 people, including journalists, under the coercive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for reporting and writing on the recent communal violence in the state. The state police has sent notices to various social media platforms under UAPA.

This move comes a few days after the police had filed UAPA charges against some Delhi based lawyers who had visited Tripura as part of an independent fact finding enquiry commission into the communal violence.

One of the journalists, Shyam Meera Singh, has alleged that he has been booked under UAPA for merely tweeting “Tripura is burning”. This is an extremely disturbing trend where such a harsh law, wherein the processes of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence.

The Guild is of the opinion that this is an attempt by the state government to deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence, as well as to take action against the perpetrators of this. Governments cannot use stringent laws like UAPA to suppress reporting on such incidents.

Editors Guild demands that the state government conduct an objective and fair investigation into the circumstances of the riots instead of penalising journalists and civil society activists.

Further, the Guild reiterates its earlier demand to the Supreme Court of India, to take cognizance of the manner in which such laws are unjustifiably used against freedom of speech, and to issue stringent guidelines on charging journalists under them, so that these laws don’t become an easy tool for suppressing press freedom.

Also read: Muslim group allege ‘political conspiracy’ in Tripura communal violence, claim minority targeted


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