New Delhi: The Press Club of India on Friday condemned the slapping of sedition charges on an editor of a Gujarati news portal and the reported filing of 10 FIRs against six journalists in Himachal Pradesh, saying such actions are a “blot on our democratic aspirations”.
In a statement, the Press Club of India (PCI) said going on the basis of a “string of seemingly malafide actions” against journalists by BJP-run states and the Centre-controlled Union Territories, it calls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda to step in to bring “sanity to the proceedings”.
“The latest media victims of deplorable police actions evidently in cahoots with the ruling party- emerge from Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh,” the PCI said.
In Gujarat, a senior and well-known journalist who heads a news portal has had an FIR registered against him on grounds of sedition and under the Disaster Management Act, the statement noted.
His alleged fault was to publish a news story hinting that the top leadership in New Delhi was contemplating change of chief minister in Gujarat as the incumbent has failed to offer guidance in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, it said.
“It is clear that an example has been sought to be made of this editor. Other newspapers in Ahmedabad which followed up on the same important news have so far not been threatened,” the PCI said.
It is strange that in this case, policemen should arrogate to themselves the right and the authority to be arbiters of the validity of political news and developments, it said, adding that this is how “police states operate”.
Referring to the second incident of press freedom infringement, the PCI said in Himachal Pradesh, six journalists from various districts of the state have reportedly had as many as ten FIRs registered against them.
“The reason for this unwanted police attention is that the journalists in question have reported on the plight of migrant workers and on the shortcomings of the state authorities in dealing with relief in the fight against COVID-19,” it said.
These are legitimate areas of enquiry for journalists and examples of high-handed and irregular behaviour by those in authority, the PCI said.
“Before these cases in Gujarat and HP, the administration and police in Uttar Pradesh, J&K and Delhi had already presented shocking examples of suppression of the media so that their questionable actions do not get to be known to the wider world,” it said.
“We condemn such actions. They are a blot on our democratic aspirations,” the statement said.