New Delhi: To help cover the legal expenses of Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Choudhury – recently held guilty of contempt of court – a civil society group, Meghalaya People’s Committee for Freedom of Expression and Free Press (MPCFOEFP), has embarked on a crowdfunding initiative.
On March 8, the Meghalaya high court declared Mukhim and Choudhury guilty of contempt of court. The two are now appealing the order in the Supreme Court – for which funds are being raised.
The contempt proceedings were initiated against the duo on the basis of reports published in the Shillong-based daily on December 6, 2018, and December 10, 2018, under the headlines “High Court pursues retirement benefits to judges, family” and “When judges judge for themselves,” respectively.
Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir asked the two “to sit in the corner of the court room till the rising of the court” and imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on each. The amount is to be deposited to the registry for the welfare fund of the high court within a week.
MPCFOEFP said it felt the need to start the online crowd funding initiative as a free and independent press “is essential for the health of democracy in the country in general and Meghalaya in particular.”
“Patricia Mukhim and Shobha Choudhury are appealing to the Supreme Court challenging the orders. But There is a need for all of us citizens to come together and send a message that the fourth pillar of democracy should be protected at all cost. Therefore, Meghalaya People’s Committee for Freedom of Expression and Free Press (MPCFOEFP) appeals for all citizens to come together and help.”
The organisation is looking to raise Rs 5 lakhs. If the legal appeal fails, Rs 4 lakh would be paid out of the generated fund and if the fine is waived off, the funds would be used towards a campaign to reform contempt laws in the country as well as help local journalists and media defend their rights.