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Editors Guild Condemns UP FIR Against The Wire, Others, Says Police Aim is to 'Deter Reporting'

EGI says police has been 'discriminatory in targeting those media organizsations and journalists- when thousands had tweeted the video- that have been critical of the government and it’s policies'.

New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India has condemned the FIR filed against The Wire, journalists Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayub and Mohammad Zubair and others for reporting on the allegations of an elderly Muslim man who was attacked in Ghaziabad.

“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. It is the duty of the journalists to report on the basis of sources and in case facts become contested later on, to report the emerging versions and facets. For police to wade into such professional calls by 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 statement says.

The Guild has also noted the discriminatory, targeted FIR filed by the UP police. “Several media organizations and journalists, besides the ones charged by the police, posted this video on their social media feeds. Subsequently there was an alternate version offered by the UP 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 organizations and journalists,” the statement reads.

This, Editors Guild of India pointed out, makes it “quite evident that the police has been discriminatory in targeting those media organizations and journalists- when thousands had tweeted the video- that have been critical of the government and it’s policies. The Guild condemns this wanton misuse of laws to criminalize reporting and dissent to harass independent media and demands that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately.”

Editors Guild of India statement by The Wire on Scribd

Widely reported story

On Wednesday, Manu Sebastian, the managing editor of LiveLaw, had pointed to this cherry-picking of the media on Twitter and linked to several other news organisations which had also reported on Abdul Samad Saifi’s allegations that he was made to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and subjected to communal slurs. “The old Muslim man’s claim was reported by mainstream media like PTI, TimesNow, NDTV, Indian Express, Print, FirstPost etc. Are they liable? Curious to know what did those named in the FIR do differently,” he tweeted.

There are at least 13 other news organisations which reported Saifi’s allegations at the same time as those whom the UP Police has named in its FIR:

1. “Elderly Muslim man assaulted in Ghaziabad, forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” Times Now’s website reported on June 14. On June 16, one line was added about the police’s claim that the attack was because of a dispute about an amulet.

2. “Elder Muslim Man Thrashed In Ghaziabad, Beard Cut Off For Not Chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’; Video Surfaces,” the ABP news headline from June 14 says.

3. “Elderly Muslim assaulted in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” FirstPost reported on June 14.

4. “Was beaten up to chant Jai Shri Ram, elderly Muslim man says in viral video; Police say no such allegations in FIR,” news agency PTI reported on June 14.

Several publications carried the PTI report, including 5. Republic, 6. India Today, 7. Deccan Herald, 8. Outlook and 9. New Indian Express.

10. “Elderly Muslim Man Beaten Up, Beard Cut Off In Ghaziabad Near Delhi,” NDTV reported on June 14. At some point after publication, a short paragraph was added about the UP’s police version.

11. “Ghaziabad: Group cuts beard of elderly Muslim man, forces him to say Jai Shri Ram,” The Week reported on June 14, quoting NDTV.

12. “Old Muslim man beaten, ‘forced to chant Jai Siya Ram’, beard cut. Now cops add a ‘taweez’ angle,” The Print reported on June 15.

13. “Elderly man says ‘beaten, forced to chant Jai Shri Ram’ in Ghaziabad,” the Indian Express reported on June 16.

Several other media bodies, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps and Mumbai Press Club, too have condemned the police action.