RECENT STATEMENTS ISSUED
The Editors Guild of India is disturbed by the registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) by the Manipur Police against the President of the Guild as well as the members of the fact-finding team that had visited Manipur to study and document media’s coverage of ethnic clashes in the state. The Guild is further shocked by the intimidatory statements made by the Chief Minister of Manipur, Mr. N Biren Singh, in response to the report.
The Guild had received several representations from civil society as well as the Indian Army raising concerns that the media in Manipur was playing a partisan role in the ongoing ethnic conflict between the majority Meitei community and the Kuki-Chin minority. The Guild had sent a three-member team to Manipur to examine the media’s reportage in the state as well as the effects of internet shut down. The team met a cross-section of reporters, editors, representatives of the Editors Guild of Manipur, All Manipur Working Journalists Union, civil society activists, public intellectuals, women affected by the violence, tribal spokespersons and the representatives of the security forces operating in Manipur.
The report was released on September 2, 2023.
The Guild is extremely disturbed that rather than respond to the concerns raised in the report in a meaningful way, the state government has registered FIRs invoking multiple provisions of the IPC. The Guild has already acknowledged and corrected an error that was pointed out regarding a photo caption, and we remain open to further discussion.
However, the Chief Minister’s labelling of the journalists body as “anti-State” and “anti- national” is deeply disturbing, especially given the way the Union Government has emphasised the country’s democratic credentials as well as the spirit of freedom of speech at the global stage for the upcoming G20 summit.
The Guild would also like to reiterate that the underlying idea of the report was to enable introspection and reflection on the media’s conduct in such a sensitive situation. The Guild urges the state government to close the FIRs.
The Editors Guild of India notes with concern, some aspects of the recent decision of the Karnataka state government to set up a ‘fact-checking unit’ to monitor ‘fake news’ on social media platforms. As per Karnataka’s IT & BT Minister, “posts and reports that are tagged as fake by the fact checking unit will be taken down,” and “if required, the government can also take penal measures under relevant provisions of the IPC.”
The Guild has already filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, challenging the amendments to the IT Rules 2023 that allow setting up of a ‘fact checking unit’ under which the executive will have sole authority to determine what is fake or not, and with powers to order content take-down.
While admittedly there is a problem of misinformation and fake news, especially in the online space, efforts to check such content have to be by independent bodies that are not under the sole purview of the government, lest they become tools to clamp down on voices of dissent. Any such monitoring framework should follow principles of natural justice, including giving prior notice, right to appeal, and judicial oversight. Such units should also be set up with due consultation and involvement of all stakeholders, including journalists and media bodies, so that press freedom is not tampered with.
The Guild urges the Karnataka government to clearly specify the scope and powers of the proposed fact-checking unit, as well as the governing mechanism under which it will operate. We further urge the state government to undertake a consultation exercise with press organisations for developing this framework.
The Editors Guild of India is disturbed by the blocking of the website as well as de-activation of social media accounts of the Srinagar based news website, the KashmirWalla.
As per the statement released by the KashmirWalla on August 20, 2023, the service providers [of their website], informed them that the website has been, “blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the IT Act, 2000”. Further, their Facebook account has also been de-activated, as well as the Twitter account, “in response to a legal demand.”
It must be noted that the founder-editor of KashmirWalla, Fahad Shah, has been under arrest since February 2022 and there are multiple FIRs against him, including under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The police have summoned and detained Shah multiple times over the years for his writing.
The Guild is disturbed by the censorship measures undertaken by MeitY, without following due processes and against principles of natural justice. In the judgment of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India had expressly laid down that all reasonable efforts must be made to identify and notify the people whose information is sought to be blocked before access is restricted, as well as a right to appeal.
The Guild urges the Ministry to release the orders of suspension in the public domain, and to follow due processes laid down by the Supreme Court.
Editors Guild of India’s Fact-Finding Mission on media’s reportage of ethnic violence in Manipur
The Editors Guild of India has received several representations, including from the Indian Army, about the uneven and biased reportage of the ethnic clashes in Manipur by the local and national media, and that it has further fanned the flames of violence in the state through incorrect reporting, wrong facts, and fake news. The Guild had expressed its deep concerns in its statement dated July 14, 2023.
The Guild is now sending a three-member team of senior journalists to Manipur on a mission to study and document the inconsistencies in the media’s coverage of the violence, and the role this could have played in spreading divisiveness during this critical period.
The members are Ms. Seema Guha, Mr. Bharat Bhushan, and Mr. Sanjay Kapoor. They will be visiting Manipur from August 7-10.
The terms of reference are to examine:
• The reportage of the violence by the media
• Whether media was indeed biased and divisive as alleged by several stakeholders, and to gather evidence
• To understand and document the way media’s coverage deepened the fissures
• Impact of internet shutdown on the ability of the media to function
The Guild requests all interested stakeholders to co-operate with the fact-finding team and support this exercise of truth seeking and introspection on the conduct of the press in such a critical situation.
EGI statement on Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023
August 06, 2023
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, which has been presented before the Lok Sabha on August 3, 2023 by the Hon’ble Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Mr. Ashwini Vaishnaw. The bill carries various provisions that can have an adverse impact on press freedom.
We highlight some of the primary concerns below:
A. Concerns over democratic process
We note the irregularities in the manner in which the Bill has been brought before the Parliament. Bypassing democratic processes, such as transparency in the public consultation process as well as lapses in parliamentary procedure in tabling the Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, have contributed to the drafting of a Bill that provides significantly lower protections than those envisaged initially by the Justice BN Srikrishna Expert Committee and by the Supreme Court in its landmark Privacy Judgment of Justice K. S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.
B. Concerns over surveillance over censorship and lack of surveillance reform
We note, with dismay, that while the Bill, ostensibly to promote data protection, has failed to make any provisions that bring about the surveillance reform that is urgently needed, and in fact creates an enabling framework for surveillance of citizens, including journalists and their sources. While clause 17(2)(a) allows the Union Government to issue a notification exempting any “instrumentality of the State” from the provisions of this Bill, thereby out of the ambit of data protection restrictions, including internal sharing and processing of data, Section 17(4) allows the government and its instrumentalities to retain personal data for an unlimited period of time. Additionally, under Section 36, the Government can ask any public or private entity (Data Fiduciary) to furnish personal information of citizens, including journalists and their sources.
C. Concerns over widening of censorship powers:
The Bill provides the Union Government with an opportunity to widen its existing powers of censorship. Clause 37(1)(b) of the Bill will allow the Union Government to censor content on vague and unspecified grounds ‘in the interest of the general public’. This will increase censorship powers well beyond what is presently provided for under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and may even be unconstitutional for going beyond the reasonable restrictions on free expression enumerated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.
D. Concerns over lack of exemptions for journalistic activities
We are deeply concerned about the lack of exemptions for journalists from certain obligations of the law, where the reporting on certain entities in public interest may conflict with their right to personal data protection. The Justice Srikrishna Committee report had noted that “If journalists were made to adhere to the grounds of processing personal data, it would be extremely onerous for them to access information”, and that “mandating grounds of processing like consent would mean that accounts that are unfavourable to the data principal would simply not get published.” It had thus provided a framework for balance between personal data protection and public interest, which we note is missing from the current bill. This will lead to a chilling effect on journalistic activity in the country.
E. Concern over impact on the Right To Information (RTI)
As has been already been pointed out by some activists, certain provisions of the Bill, Clause 44(3) for instance, unreasonably widen the scope of exemptions available to Public Information Officers of government ministries and departments to reject RTI applications under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, on the simple basis that the information sought ‘relates to personal information’. The RTI Act in its present form strikes a balance between privacy and the right to public information. This provision shifts the balance in favour of non-disclosure of information, including information which is being sought by journalists in public interest, thereby reducing accountability. It is necessary that the RTI Act not be weakened.
F.Concerns over the composition of and appointment to the Data Protection Board
While exemptions provided to the government and its instrumentalities are near-absolute, the Data Protection Board to be constituted thereunder has not been provided sufficient independence and rulemaking powers. Lawyers, scholars and even judgments of the Supreme Court have noted that Tribunals (such as the Data Protection Board) must remain independent of control by the executive, to maintain their effectiveness and credibility. However, given that all members of the DPB will be appointed by the Union Government (Clause 19(2)), its independence remains in doubt. Considering the huge fines that can potentially be imposed, the independence of the Board from executive interference is vital to preserve liberty.
The Guild urges Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to reconsider the provisions that Editor’s Guild of India has highlighted, and work to offer a data protection legislation to Indian citizens that does not compromise their right to free expression, right to information and right to a free press. Further, the Guild urges the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, to place the Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for deliberation on the issues raised, as well as to reconsider those provisions.
The Guild has already written to the Prime Minister, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, leaders of political parties in both the houses, as well as the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, highlighting our concerns.
EGI Statement on Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023
August 6, 2023
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned with some of the draconian provisions in the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by the Hon’ble Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Mr. Anurag Thakur, and is meant to replace the existing Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 (PRB).
Though the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” mentions that the “proposed legislation is based on the spirit of upholding media freedom and ease of doing business”, in effect the new bill in fact widens the powers of the State to have more intrusive and arbitrary checks into the functioning of newspapers and magazines than the existing law had.
The Guild is concerned about the expansion of powers of the Press Registrar, the new restrictions on citizens to bring out periodicals, the continuation of power to enter premises of news publications, the vagueness inherent in many of the provisions, and the ambiguity surrounding power to frame rules that can have adverse implications on press freedom.
We highlight below some of the primary concerns:
A. Expansion of power beyond Press Registrar
In definitions section, the term “specified authority” gives power to government agencies beyond the Press Registrar, to conduct the functions of the registrar, which could even include police and other law enforcement agencies. Given the intrusive, expansive, and vague nature of powers that the bill in any case allows to the Press Registrar, the power to further delegate this power to other government agencies including law enforcement agencies is deeply distressing. The Guild urges that only the Press Registrar should be the relevant authority for the purpose of this act and no other government agency should be given any powers with respect to registration of periodicals.
B. Denial and cancellation of registration to persons convicted for “unlawful activity”
Sections 4(1) and 11(4), allow the Registrar to deny the right to bring out a periodical, and to cancel the certificate of registration of a periodical, to persons convicted of “terrorist act or unlawful activity”, or “for having done anything against the security of the State”. Interestingly, the PRB Act, 1867, had no such provisions. Given the liberal and arbitrary use of UAPA (which is the basis for defining “terrorist act” and “unlawful activity”), as well as other criminal laws, including Sedition, against journalists and media organisations to suppress freedom of speech, the Guild is deeply concerned by the introduction of these new provisions, and the way they can be misused to deny the right to bring out news publications to persons who are critical of governments
C. Power to enter premises of Press organisations
Under section 6(b), the bill gives power to the Press Registrar, (as well as any other “specified authority”) to enter the premises of a periodical to “inspect or take copies of the relevant records or documents or ask any questions necessary for obtaining any information required to be furnished”. This authority to enter a press organisation is excessively intrusive and it is deeply concerning that while on one hand, in the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” it is claimed that the intention is to make the process less cumbersome for press organisations, but yet such powers are continued from the earlier act.
D. Concerns regarding power to frame rules
Section 19 gives the Central Government powers to frame rules and guidelines under which news publishing is to be done in India. It has been seen time again that the power to frame rules under various acts has been used in arbitrary as well as excessively intrusive manner. The recent IT Rules 2021, and the latest amendments made to it regarding setting up of a ‘fact checking unit’ with sweeping powers to order content take down is an illustrative example. Therefore, for the sake of preserving freedom of press, it is submitted that all such rules be clearly defined within the act, and there be no provisions be left to the discretion of a future government or a government authority.
Editors Guild of India would like the proposed bill to ensure that publishing of news in India remains free of encumbrances and intrusive checks on publishers by the registrar, and that the primary emphasis of the registrar and the PRP remains ‘registration’ and not ‘regulation’, as the latter has the potential of restricting freedom of press. The law on this issue should be more respectful of freedom of the press and should avoid granting vast powers to regulatory authorities to either interfere or shut down the press at their whims and fancies
Since the bill has already been passed in the Rajya Sabha, the Guild urges the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to refer it to a Parliamentary Select Committee, to allow a deep discussion on the issues that are crucial for press freedom.
The Guild has already written to the Prime Minister, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, leaders of political parties in both the houses, as well as the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, highlighting our concerns.
In a petition filed by Editors Guild of India challenging the amendments to IT Rules, 2021, the Bombay High Court issues notice and extends stay on the Rules till July 10
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 (IT Amendment Rules, 2023) were notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on April 6, 2023. Along with various regulations concerning online gaming, the amendment also grants authority to a “fact check unit of the Central Government” to categorise and remove any online content pertaining to “any business of the Central Government” that is deemed “fake, false, or misleading.”
The effect of the Impugned Rule is that the moment the “fact check unit of the Central Government” disputes the truth/veracity of a news item regarding “any business of the Central Government”, the fact of such disagreement alone obliterates the publisher’s freedom to publish and citizen’s right to access such information.
The Editors Guild had raised its concerns in its statement dated April 7, 2023, stating that “amendments to the IT Rules will have deeply adverse implications for press freedom in the country”.
The Guild has now filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court challenging the constitutional validity of this provision of the IT Rules Amendment, 2023 for being ultra vires the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000), and violating the right to freedom of speech and expression. The Bombay High Court directed the Government to file its Reply to this petition by June 20 and has listed the matters for final hearing on July 6 and 7, 2023. The undertaking provided by the Government not to constitute its fact check unit has been extended to July 10, 2023.
The Editors Guild of India deeply appreciates the help of the legal team that has spearheaded this effort. The petition was drafted by Advocate Mr. Shadan Farasat along with Advocates Natasha Maheshwari and Hrishika Jain. The petition was filed by the Bombay counsel Bimal Rajshekhar. The Guild further thanks Senior Advocate Mr. Kapil Sibal, who has been overseeing this matter and who appeared on behalf of the Guild in the Bombay High Court.
The Editors Guild of India is concerned about the attitude of the law enforcement agencies towards journalists that has been on display through several incidents noted and decried. The latest seems to be the detention of a Times Now reporter where established norms were not followed by the Punjab police.
Bhavana Kishore, a reporter with Times Network, was reportedly involved in an accident while travelling on a reporting assignment in Punjab. Times Now has claimed that even though she was not driving the car, she was detained by the Punjab police and taken away in a car by a male cop, without the presence of a female police person, which is against the well established procedures with respect to arrest or detention of women. Further, an FIR has also been registered in a Ludhiana police station, which appears excessive and with undue haste.
EGI urges the Punjab government to release the journalist from detention and direct its police to follow the established procedures. The Guild also notes that given that the reporter was on a journalistic assignment, the law enforcement agencies should have exercised due restraint with respect to detention and subsequent filing of FIR.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply disturbed by the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 (IT Amendment Rules, 2023), which have been notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on April 6, 2023.
MeitY has introduced amendments to the IT Rules that will have deeply adverse implications for press freedom in the country. As per the rules that have been notified, the Ministry has given itself the power to constitute a “fact checking unit”, which will have sweeping powers to determine what is “fake or false or misleading”, with respect to “any business of the Central Government”, and with instructions to ‘intermediaries’ (including social media intermediaries, Internet Service Providers, and other service providers), to not host such content. In effect, the government has given itself absolute power to determine what is fake or not, in respect of its own work, and order take down. The so called ‘fact checking unit’ can be constituted by the Ministry, by a simple “notification published in the Official Gazette”.
There is no mention of what will be the governing mechanism for such a fact checking unit, the judicial oversight, the right to appeal, or adherence to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Shreya Singhal v Union of India case, with respect to take down of content or blocking of social media handles. All this is against principles of natural justice, and akin to censorship.
What is further surprising is that the Ministry has notified this amendment, without any meaningful consultation that it had promised after it withdrew the earlier draft amendments it had put out in January 2023. These had given sweeping powers to the Press Information Bureau (PIB), which was universally criticized by media organisations across the country, including the Guild.
The Ministry’s notification of such draconian rules is therefore regrettable. The Guild again urges the Ministry to withdraw this notification and conduct consultations with media organisations and press bodies.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the arbitrary suspension of social media accounts of several journalists and media organisations in Punjab over the last few days. The official Twitter account of BBC Punjabi was withheld on March 27, though it was restored later in the day. Similarly, social media accounts of a senior staffer at the Indian Express as well as some other prominent journalists were also suspended. This has been part of the larger restrictions on internet services as well as orders of suspension of several social media accounts other than that of journalists, by the Government of Punjab since March 17th, as part of the man-hunt to arrest the radical preacher Amritpal Singh.
The Guild is concerned that in the suspension of all these social media handles, no due processes were followed and they were carried out against the principles of natural justice. In the judgment of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India had expressly laid down that all reasonable efforts must be made to identify and notify the people whose information is sought to be blocked before access is restricted, as well as a right to appeal. No such process seems to have been followed in any of these shutdowns.
Notwithstanding the fact that some of the accounts were later restored, or for that matter that many of the accounts suspended may not have been that of journalists or those associated with news organisations, the Guild is concerned that under the pretext of maintaining security, the state government’s arbitrary actions undermine press freedom.
We urge the state and central governments as well as the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), to act with restraint in all such cases, and base action if required on due diligence based on facts and in adherence to processes laid down by the Supreme Court of India. Currently, the widespread action against journalists and the larger media fraternity has created an atmosphere of fear in Punjab that is not conducive to free and fair journalism.
We also urge MeitY to release all the orders of suspension in the public domain, in the interest of transparency and the spirit of the law.
Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the excessive use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against journalists, most recently, in the case of the arrest of Irfan Mehraj, a Kashmir-based journalist, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). According to reports, on the afternoon of March 20, Irfan was called by an investigator on his mobile phone and told to come for a few minutes to the local NIA office in Srinagar. Thereafter he was arrested and subsequently shifted to Delhi.
Irfan has been booked under the draconian UAPA. According to the NIA, Irfan was previously summoned to Delhi in a case related to “NGO terror funding” and he cooperated.
The NIA in its press note claimed he was a “close associate” of the Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez.
Irfan started his career as a journalist in 2015 and covered politics and human rights extensively. He has written for several publications about the situation in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370. He also runs an online publication called Wande Magazine.
Irfan Mehraj’s arrest continues a trend in Kashmir of security forces arresting journalists because of their critical reporting of the establishment. These include journalists Aasif Sultan, Sajad Gul, and Fahad Shah. The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir.
The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the Income Tax surveys at the offices of BBC India. As per news reports, BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai were being “surveyed” by teams from the IT department on Tuesday, February 14, 2023.
This comes soon after the release of two documentaries by the BBC, on the 2002 violence in Gujarat and the current status of the minorities in India. The documentaries stirred political waters with the government criticising the BBC for wrong and prejudiced reportage on the Gujarat violence, and attempted to ban online access and viewing of the films in India.
The surveys by the IT department is in continuation of a trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment. In September 2021, offices of NewsClick and Newslaundry were similarly “surveyed” by IT department. In June 2021, there were surveys against Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar. In February 2021, the ED had conducted raids at the office of NewsClick. In each case, the raids and surveys were against the backdrop of critical coverage of the government establishment by the news organisations.
This is a trend that undermines constitutional democracy. The Guild demands that great care and sensitivity be shown in all such investigations so as to not undermine the rights of journalists and media organisations. Further, the Guild reiterates its earlier demand that governments ensure that such investigations are conducted within the prescribed rules and that they don’t degenerate into instruments of harassment to intimidate independent media.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned by the draft amendment made to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) that gives authority to the Press Information Bureau (PIB) to determine the veracity of news reports, and anything termed ‘fake’ will have to be taken down by online intermediaries, including social media platforms. The amendment was uploaded on the Ministry’s website on January 17, 2023.
At the outset, determination of fake news cannot be in the sole hands of the government and will result in the censorship of the press. Already multiple laws exist to deal with content that is found to be factually incorrect. This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press, and will give sweeping powers to the PIB, or any “other agency authorised by the Central Government for fact checking”, to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic.
Further, the words “in respect of any business of the Central Government” seems to give the government a carte blanche to determine what is fake or not with respect to its own work. This will stifle legitimate criticism of the government and will have an adverse impact on the ability of the press to hold governments to account, which is a vital role it plays in a democracy.
It must be further noted that the Guild had raised its deep concerns with the IT Rules when they were first introduced in March 2021, claiming that they empower the Union Government to block, delete, or modify published news anywhere in the country without any judicial oversight. Various provisions in these rules have the potential to place unreasonable restrictions on digital news media, and consequently media at large.
The Guild urges the Ministry to expunge this new amendment, and to initiate meaningful consultations with press bodies, media organisations, and other stakeholders, on the regulatory framework for digital media, so as to not undermine press freedom.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the recent threats issued to journalists working in Kashmir, by alleged terror organisations, and the subsequent resignations of five of the journalists from their respective media outlets.
Journalists in Kashmir now find themselves in the firing line from both the state authorities as well as terrorists, in what is a throwback to the years of heightened militancy in the 1990s. Once again media houses have been named by terror groups warning that those associated with well-known regional papers including Rising Kashmir and Greater Kashmir will be declared “traitors” and that “their timeline is sealed”.
Space for media freedom and active civil society has been steadily eroding in the region. It must be recalled that the editor of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari was assassinated in June 2018. The Kashmir Press Club, which had become an important institution for fighting for the protection and rights of journalists, was shut down by the state administration earlier in the year, weakening the layer of peer-driven protection for the journalists.
These pronouncements by terror organisations have further worsened the sense of fear and insecurity, which makes it impossible for the journalists to work freely. The Guild strongly condemns such threats and calls upon the state government to create an atmosphere of security and trust, wherein the media is not compelled to take sides, and is able to work in a free environment with full security.
The Editors Guild of India is extremely disturbed by the manner in which Delhi Police Crime Branch carried out search and seizures at the homes of founding editors and senior editors of the Wire, as well as their office and the newsroom in Delhi, on October 31, 2022.
The searches were carried out in a follow up to a First Information Report (FIR), registered in response to a complaint filed on October 29th, by the BJP national spokesperson and head of the party IT cell, Mr. Amit Malaviya, against the news organisation.
The haste with which the police searches were carried out at multiple locations, is excessive and disproportionate, and in the manner of a fishing and roving enquiry. Further, as per a statement published by the Wire, the police personnel seized phones, computers, and iPads from homes of the journalists, as well as from the office, and no hash value of the digital devices was given in spite of requests made by them. This is a serious violation of procedures and rules of investigation. Moreover, digital devices of editors and journalists would have sensitive information pertaining to journalistic sources and stories under work, the confidentiality of which can be seriously compromised in such seizures.
It must be noted that the Wire has already admitted to serious lapses in their reporting on stories pertaining to Meta with references to Mr. Malaviya. These lapses are condemnable and the reports based on wrong information have since been withdrawn by the Wire.
However, these police search and seizures in violation of established rules and in intimidatory manner is also alarming. The Guild urges the law enforcement agencies to strictly adhere to rules of investigation in this matter, and to ensure that integrity of sensitive journalistic information is not violated and other on-going work of the news organisation is not obstructed.
The Guild further urges the Delhi Police to be objective and impartial in investigating all the complaints filed in this matter, and not use intimidatory tactics in disregard of democratic principles.
The Editors Guild of India had issued a statement on January 11, 2022 expressing deep concern about the online harassment and targeting of women journalists.
Amongst other instances, the statement had also referred to a series of reports carried by the Wire on an app called the Tek Fog. Since the Wire has removed those stories as part of their internal review following serious questions on the veracity of their reporting, the Guild withdraws the references made to all those reports.
However, the Guild reiterates that online trolling of women journalists remains an important issue, and that better safeguards need to be put in place, including a strong and effective complaints and redressal system for the victims.
The Guild is also disturbed by the recent turn of events with respect to the reports published by the Wire on Meta. The Guild is conscious of and emphasizes the need for extra care in investigative journalism, and urges newsrooms to resist the temptation of moving fast on sensitive stories, circumventing due journalistic norms and checks.
The Editors Guild of India is pleased to announce its new Executive Committee.
The members of the new committee are as follows:
EGI Executive Committee – 2022
Ashutosh, Co-founder and Editor, Satyahindi
Jayant Mammen Mathew, Executive Editor, Malayala Manorama
Kumkum Chadha, Hindustan Times
K V Prasad, Former Officiating Editor, The Tribune
MD Nalapat, Editorial Director, ITV Network
Naresh Fernandes, Editor, Scroll.in
Om Thanvi, Former Editor, Jansatta
Prakash Dubey, Group Editor, Dainik Bhaskar
Raghav Bahl, Editor-in-Chief, The Quint
Sanjay Kapoor, Editor, Hardnews
Shahid Siddiqui, Chief Editor, Nai Duniya
Shrenik Rao, Editor-in-Chief, Madras Courier
Suresh Bafna, former Resident Editor (Delhi), Nai Dunia
Teresa Rehman, Managing Editor, The Thumb Print
Vijay Naik, Consulting Editor (Delhi), Sakal Media Group
John Dayal, Consulting Editor, Indian Currents
Harish Khare, former Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune
Ex-Officio Members of the EC (Past Presidents):
Shekhar Gupta, Editor, ThePrint
Raj Chengappa, Group Editorial Director (Publishing), India Today
N Ravi, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu
TN Ninan, Former Editor, Business Standard
Alok Mehta, former Chief Editor, Outlook (Hindi)
Rajdeep Sardesai, Consulting Editor, TV Today Network
Mammen Mathew, Chief Editor, Malayala Manorama
HK Dua, former Editor, Hindustan Times; Editor in Chief, Indian Express and The Tribune
Hari Jaisingh, former Editor, The Tribune
Ramoji Rao, Chairman, Eanadu and ETV
DN Bezboruah, former Editor, Sentinel
KN Hari Kumar, former Editor-in-Chief, Deccan Herald and Prajavani
The Annual General Meeting of the Editors Guild of India for the financial year 2021-22 was held on October 15, 2022.
Ms. Seema Mustafa, editor of The Citizen, Mr. Anant Nath, editor of the Caravan, and Mr. Shriam Pawar, chief editor of Sakal Media Group have been elected unopposed as President, General Secretary, and Treasurer of the Editors Guild of India respectively.
This announcement was made by a three-member election Committee comprising Rajdeep Sardesai, Vijay Naik, and Q.W. Naqvi at the Annual General Meeting of the Editors Guild held today.
The Executive Committee at its meeting held on September 23, 2022, had appreciated the work done by the Office Bearers, including at the time general secretary Sanjay Kapoor, and had expressed the unanimous opinion that the same team of office bearers should continue for the next term.
EGI Election Committee
Rajdeep Sardesai, Returning Officer
Vijay Naik, EC member
Q. W. Naqvi, EC member
The Editors Guild of India is disturbed by the irresponsible conduct of some national news channels for deliberately creating circumstances that target vulnerable communities by spewing hatred towards them and their beliefs.
Expectedly, there was a riot in Kanpur accompanied by an unprecedented trenchant reaction from many countries that were offended by the remarks of the ruling party spokespersons. In their angry statements they wondered about India’s commitment to human rights and freedom of religion.
The incident that caused unnecessary embarrassment to the country could have been avoided if some of the TV outlets had been mindful of the nation’s constitutional commitment to secularism, as well as the journalistic ethics and guidelines that the Press Council of India has issued to handle a volatile communal situation.
Instead, some of these channels prompted by the desire to increase viewership and profit were seemingly inspired by the values of Radio Rwanda whose incendiary broadcast caused a genocide in the African nation.
EGI demands that these channels pause and take a critical look at what they have done by giving legitimacy to divisive and toxic voices that has made the national discourse coarse and the gap between communities unbridgeable.
The Editors Guild of India also demands stricter vigilance by broadcaster and journalist bodies to prevent a recurrence of this from taking place. The media is in place to strengthen the Constitution and the law and not break it through sheer irresponsibility and absence of accountability.
Editors Guild of India is extremely pleased that in response to the petition filed by the Guild, challenging the sedition law (IPC 124A), the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on May 11, 2022, has passed an interim order effectively keeping the law in abeyance, until the Union Government reconsiders the provision.
The court passed the interim order in response to a clutch of petitions filed by the Editors Guild of India, Major General SG Vombatkere (Retd), former Union Minister Arun Shourie, PUCL and others.
The court in its order has noted:
“We hope and expect that the State and Central Governments will restrain from registering any FIR, continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the aforesaid provision of law is under consideration”,
And further that
“All pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A of IPC be kept in abeyance”.
The court has also allowed those booked under this provision to approach the concerned court for bail.
The order was passed after the Union Government stated in an affidavit that the law requires “re-consideration and re-examination”.
The Guild welcomes this interim order as sedition law has been used far too often by Central and State governments against journalists in an effort to curb independent reporting.
The Guild thanks and appreciates the team of lawyers who worked relentlessly on its petition, led by Senior Advocate Mr. Shyam Diwan, and advocates Mr. Prashant Kumar, Mr. Govind Manoharan, Mr. Amarjit Bedi, Mr. Sudipto Sircar and their team.
The Editors Guild of India urges editors and journalists to exercise utmost restraint, and observe the highest professional standards, in reporting communal disturbances that have erupted in various parts of the country.
While EGI is cognizant of the hazards faced by on-ground reporters in riot-like situations, it is dismayed to note that due diligence has been wanting in the evaluation and presentation of reports of the clashes between communities. This is especially evident in electronic, digital and social media.
In the understandable desire to be first with the news, and to catch the eye of news consumers, many editors and reporters appear to be rushing to conclusions, and assigning responsibility to one or the other community, without a full appreciation of the facts, context and calculations at work. This could have lasting implications.
As the long arc of communal violence in the country shows, most incidents are rarely what they seem to be on the surface. The patronage of politicians, police, officials and non-state actors is well documented. It is, therefore, incumbent for editors to bring their experience and perspective to the newsroom in these surcharged times.
EGI believes it is necessary for every journalist to make the extra effort to maintain fairness, neutrality and balance, and not allow themselves to become pawns in the larger game of polarisation. Journalism has many noble objectives as well as professional obligations. Helping preserve social peace and communal harmony—by not fuelling rumours; by not being partisan; by not setting citizen against citizen—is one such worthy professional obligation.
The Editors Guild of India is shocked and outraged by the manner in which the police of Sidhi district, Madhya Pradesh, arrested, stripped, and humiliated a local journalist as well as some members of the civil society, on April 2, 2022, in retaliation against protest and associated news coverage of arrest of another member of civil society. Kanishk Tewari, a local reporter was covering the protest against the arrest of a theatre artist who had allegedly made some indecent remarks against a Bhartiya Janata Party MLA and his son.
Further shockingly, the police shot pictures of the journalist and activists and released them on social media in order to shame and humiliate them.
Though the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has suspended the cops and ordered an inquiry into this horrendous case, but this increasing tendency of the police and local administration to brazenly attack and intimidate journalists is extremely disturbing and needs to be checked.
In another incident in Odisha on April 7, police in the Balasore district chained a journalist’s leg to a hospital bed after an alleged case of assault. The journalist Loknath Delai though has claimed that he was arrested in response to his reporting of corruption by the police and various irregularities in their affairs.
The inhumane manner in which journalists, stringers, and district reporters are often treated by the police, in an effort to suppress any independent reporting is a matter of grave concern.
The Editors Guild of India urges the Union Home Ministry to take immediate cognisance of police excesses against journalists and civil society members, and issue stern directions to all levels of law enforcement agencies to respect democratic values and freedom of press. At the same time strict action needs to be taken against those who misuse state power.
The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the manner in which an Agra based journalist, Gaurav Bansal, was arrested and allegedly tortured for reporting about electoral malpractices in the recent assembly elections. While on one hand the journalist’s lawyer has alleged that, “he was given third degree torture and humiliated by police officers”, the police on the other hand has charged him under penal laws for obstructing a government officer from discharging his duty. The Guild is deeply concerned that penal laws are ever so often used as tools to harass and intimidate journalists from freely reporting on sensitive issues.
The Guild demands that Gaurav Bansal be treated fairly by the state administration and that he be released immediately. Further an independent court monitored inquiry be done to investigate into the charges of torture by the police. EGI also urges the state government to ensure that the rights of media are protected and journalists are not harassed from doing their job fearlessly.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply disturbed by the arrest of Kishore Ram, a journalist working for the news portal Janjwar, by the Uttarakhand Police on February 24, 2022 from Pithoragadh.
Ram has been arrested under section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, on charges of promoting enmity between castes. This is deeply concerning as Ram has been reporting on issues pertaining to marginalised classes and lower castes for a while. In the present instance, an FIR was booked against him for his reporting on two separate incidents- one pertaining to the death of a Dalit youth on February 13, and the other with respect to reporting on the rape of two Dalit underage women on February 18. In both cases Ram had interviewed those who knew the victims, including the family members, and uploaded the videos on the website.
The police in its complaint have accused Ram of “asking caste of people” from the family members and speaking about the “killing of people belonging to SC by upper caste people.”
This is extremely distressing that mere reporting on what may very well be caste based crimes are being cited as grounds for arrest. The Editors Guild demands immediate release of Kishore Ram and urges the state administration and the law enforcement agencies to not use penal laws as tools of intimidation against journalists’ right to report on societal and caste based issues.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the newly released Central Media Accreditation Guidelines issued by the Press Information Bureau of India, which lays down the rules for giving accreditation to journalists for accessing and reporting from the headquarters of Government of India.
The guidelines contain various new provisions under which accreditation of a journalist can be revoked, many of which are arbitrary and without any due process of law. For instance, accreditation can be revoked if a journalist is “charged with a serious cognizable offence”, or if a journalist, “acts in a manner which is prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.
It is bizarre that merely being charged has been mentioned as a ground for cancellation. The other grounds for cancellation are manifestly vague and subjective, especially since no procedures have been set out and there is no mention of the adjudicating authority that will decide on suspension. Worse still, concerned journalists have not been given an opportunity to be heard. Most surprisingly, ‘defamation’ has been included as a ground for cancellation.
A new clause requiring police verification has been added without defining the contours of such verification. Since no standards have been prescribed, it can grant unfettered powers to the police for denying accreditation to journalists who may be seen as critical of the government.
It is clear that these vague, arbitrary, and draconian clauses have been included with an intent to restrict any critical and investigative reporting of government affairs. There are other provisions as well that are restrictive. In the case of freelance journalists, the requirements pertaining to the number of bylines have been made unreasonably high. The Guild has written a detailed letter to the PIB elaborating on all these issues.
Furthermore, these guidelines have been introduced without any prior consultation with journalists’ bodies, media organisations or any other relevant stakeholders.
The Guild therefore demands a withdrawal of these guidelines and urges the PIB to undertake meaningful consultation with all the stakeholders if it is intent on revising them.
The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the arrest of Fahad Shah, the editor of the Kashmir Walla, on February 4, 2022, on the specious ground of “glorifying terrorist activities, spreading fake news & inciting general public for creating [law and order] situation,” as per a police statement post his arrest.
Shah had been questioned four days earlier for his reporting on a deadly police raid in Pulwama in late January that left four people dead. He has been summoned and detained multiple times for his writing over the past few years. This arrest is part of a larger trend in Kashmir of security forces calling journalists for questioning and often detaining them, because of their critical reporting of the establishment. In a separate incident, journalist Gowhar Geelani has also been summoned by the executive magistrate of Shopian district to appear in court on February 7 for “acting in a manner prejudicial to public interest”. Last month, Sajad Gul, another journalist of Kashmir Walla, was also arrested because of his social media posts that were considered objectionable by the authorities.
The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir. Last month, security forces abetted some journalists in a coup of the Kashmir Press Club management, and then later on state authorities shut down the club completely, reverting the land back to the Estates department.
The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security. The Guild also demands immediate release of Fahad Shah as well as Sajad Gul, and to ensure that FIRs under harsh penal laws, intimidatory questioning, and wrongful detainment are not used as tools for suppressing journalists’ rights.
The Editors Guild of India notes with deep concern, the claims made in the recent investigative report by the New York Times, that in 2017 the Indian and Israeli governments “had agreed on the sale of a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion — with Pegasus and a missile system as the centerpieces”.
The claims in the NYT are in stark contrast to the stance of the Government of India, which has been and continues to be vague and non committal in its response to these extremely serious allegations that whether they purchased the spyware, and more disturbingly, if it was used against Indian citizens, including journalists and civil society members.
The Guild has written to the committee headed by Justice Raveendran, which was instituted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to inquire into and investigate the use of Pegasus spyware against Indian citizens, to take cognisance of the claims made in these reports, and seek responses on affidavit from the Government of India, the CAG, as well as the Secretaries of all the possible ministries that may have been involved with claimed purchase of the spyware.
Earlier, in November 2021, the Guild had written a detailed letter to the committee with suggestions, amongst others, regarding the procedures for the inquiry to be done by the committee as well as suggestions with respect to witnesses and evidence to be examined by the committee. The Guild had also offered assistance in any manner to the Committee.
The letters sent to Justice Raveendran and the technical committee members are being attached with this statement.
The Guild reiterates its consistent stance that the proceedings of the Committee be kept open to public at large so that there is complete transparency with respect to the witnesses being called as well as their responses.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply anguished by the shutting down of the Kashmir Press Club by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, on January 17, 2022. The shutting down of the club is the latest act in a sequence of disturbing events, wherein the “re-registration” of the Club was first arbitrarily put “in abeyance” by the Registrar of Societies on January 14th, followed by the shocking breach of institutional norms when a group of people, with the active support of state police and CRPF, took over the office and management of the Club on January 15th.
With the shutting down of the Club and government reverting the land back to the Estates Department, an important journalistic institution in a region that has seen the worst kind state heavy handedness against any independent media, has been effectively dismantled. Kashmir Press Club was established in 2018, and already had more than 300 members, making it the largest journalists’ association in the region.
Space for media freedom and active civil society has been steadily eroding in the region. Journalists frequently face intimidation from terror groups as well as the state. They are also charged under heavy penal laws, and are routinely detained by security forces for reporting or for their editorials. In June 2018, Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir, was killed by unknown people. In April 2020 an FIR was filed against the journalist Peerzada Ashiq, in connection with a report he had filed for The Hindu newspaper, while freelance photographer Masrat Zahra was charged with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). In October 2020, the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times was suddenly sealed. In March 2021, Fahad Shah, editor-in-chief of The Kashmir Walla, a Srinagar based publication, was detained for the third time for his writings. In April 2021, Kashmir Police had issued an advisory forbidding journalists from reporting live encounters with militants on the specious plea that it is “likely to incite violence” or that it can promote “anti-national sentiment”. Most recently, journalist Sajad Gul was arrested for posting a video of a protesting family on social media.
In a state ridden with such excesses against media, Kashmir Press Club was an important institution for fighting for protection and rights of journalists. It also remained open through the lockdown, giving journalists access to important facilities like the internet for filing their work, as well as workshops for training of young journalists. The shutting down of the Club therefore sets a dangerous precedent for media freedom.
The Guild reiterates its earlier demand that status quo before the January 14th order of Registrar of Societies be restored with respect to the functioning of the Club, and that the state works towards building and protecting the space for a free press.
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 moves 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, where in 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.
The Editors Guild of India is pleased to announce that three of its members have been accepted as nominees to the newly constituted 14th term of the Press Council of India. The Guild was amongst the three associations of editors whose claim was accepted by the Press Council in July 2021. Subsequently, the Guild nominated a panel of its members as part of the selection process.
We are pleased to share that for the first time in its history, three members of the Guild are
part of the Press Council. The three members are:
1. Mr. Prakash Dubey, Group Editor, Dainik Bhaskar
2. Dr. Khaidem Athouba Meitei, Resident Editor, Hueiyen Lanpao
3. Dr. Vinod Jose, Executive Editor, The Caravan
The Guild congratulates them all, as well as all the members of the 14th term of the Press Council of India.
The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the death of Raman Kashyap, a TV journalist who was reporting on Lakhimpur Kheri’s farmers protest on October 3. Kashyap was killed along with eight others, in the violence that erupted after some vehicles were driven through the protesting farmers, allegedly under the instructions of Ashish Mishra, son of union minister of state, Ajay Kumar Mishra.
There are competing versions about Kashyap’s death including a version that claims he died of bullet wounds. What is clear is that Kashyap was reporting on the events of the day when the horrific incident of the convoy running through protesting farmers happened, killing some of them. An independent inquiry is therefore needed to establish the cause of Kashyap’s death.
In what is clearly a terror attack meant to spread fear amongst the farmers, the killing of Kashyap raises many questions. The Editors Guild demands that the death of Kashyap be separately probed by a Court led special investigation team to ascertain the circumstances of his death and also attempt to recover and use the footage of his camera to build the sequence of events leading to his death.
EGI is concerned about the varying versions of the incident in different sections of the media. It is imperative for the media to report the facts and not versions.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply disturbed about the Income Tax “surveys” at the offices of news websites NewsClick.in and Newslaundry.com.
On September 10, 2021, teams of IT officials visited the offices of the two organisations and conducted investigations through the day. While they were officially labelled as “surveys” by the IT officials, but as per the statement issued by Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder of Newslaundry, this was a clear intimidatory and blatant attack on their rights, and therefore press freedom. It is learnt that the IT team made clones of Sekhri’s mobile and laptop, as well as some other office machines, and no hash value was given to them. This is clearly beyond the mandate of surveys as defined under section 133A of the Income Tax Act, which only allows data pertaining to the investigation to be copied, and certainly not personal and professional data of journalists. It is also in violation of procedures laid out in the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The Guild is deeply concerned that such indiscriminate seizure of journalists’ data, which could include sensitive information such as details of sources, stories under works and other journalistic data, is in violation of free speech and freedom of press.
This was the second visit by an Income Tax team at the office of Newslaundry, the earlier one being in June. In case of NewsClick, the Enforcement Directorate had conducted raids at their office as well as homes of their senior journalists and officials in February 2021. Both NewsClick and Newslaundry have been critical of policies and functioning of the Union Government.
The dangerous trend of government agencies harassing and intimidating independent media must stop as it undermines our constitutional democracy. In July 2021, Income Tax raids were conducted at the offices of country’s leading newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, as well as a Lucknow based news channel, Bharat Samachar. These raids were conducted against the backdrop of some very critical coverage by both the news organisations on government’s handling of the pandemic.
The Guild demands that great care and sensitivity be shown in all such investigations so as to not undermine the rights of journalists and media organisations. Further, to ensure that such investigations are conducted within the prescribed rules and that they don’t degenerate into instruments of harassment to intimidate independent media.
The Editors Guild of India is concerned about the Income Tax raids on July 22, at the offices of country’s leading newspaper group, Dainik Bhaskar, as well as a Lucknow based independent news channel, Bharat Samachar. They come against the backdrop of in depth reporting on the pandemic by Dainik Bhaskar, which brought to fore the gross mismanagement by government authorities and the immense loss of human lives. In a recent webinar hosted by the Guild, Om Gaur, the National Editor of Bhaskar had stated that their advertising from government departments had been cut after the recent critical coverage of state authorities. He had also written an op-ed in the New York Times, headlined ‘The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie.’
Bharat Samachar, too, has been subjected to raids by the tax authorities. It is one of the few channels in UP that has been asking difficult questions from the state government with respect to pandemic management.
Notwithstanding the merits of the case, the timing of these raids is concerning given the recent critical coverage by both the organisations.
In February 2021, the Enforcement Department had conducted raids at the office of NewsClick.in, which had been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers agitation and the anti-CAA protests.
EGI is therefore concerned that government agencies are being used as a coercive tool to suppress free and independent journalism. This is all the more disturbing given the recent media reports on the wide spread surveillance of journalists and civil society activists using the Pegasus software.
The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the media reports on the wide spread surveillance, allegedly mounted by government agencies, on journalists, civil society activists, businessmen and politicians, using a hacking software known as Pegasus, created and developed by the Israeli company NSO. The reports, which have been published worldwide over the last few days by a consortium of 17 publications, points towards surveillance by multiple governments across the world. Since NSO claims that it only sells this software to governments clients vetted by the Government of Israel, it deepens suspicion of involvement of Indian government agencies in snooping on it’s own citizens.
While some of the instances of surveillance might have been targeted against those who may be seen as credible national security threat, what is disturbing is that a large of such targets were journalists and civil society activists. This is a brazen and unconstitutional attack on freedom of speech and press. This act of snooping essentially conveys that journalism and political dissent are now equated with ‘terror’. How can a constitutional democracy survive if governments do not make an effort to protect freedom of speech and allows surveillance with such impunity?
This is a moment that demands deep introspection and inquiry into the kind of society we are heading towards, and how far we may have veered away from the democratic values enshrined in our constitution.
The Guild demands an urgent and independent inquiry into these snooping charges, under the aegis of Supreme Court of India. We also demand that this inquiry committee should include people of impeccable credibility from different walks of life- including journalists and civil society- so that it can independently investigate the facts around the extent and intent of snooping using the services of Pegasus.
The Editors Guild of India on Saturday, 17th July, organised a webinar titled “Covering the Pandemic: Challenges and Roadblocks”. The webinar was live-streamed on the official Facebook page of the Guild. The webinar saw discussions on how the Covid-19 pandemic created a set of never-seen-before challenges for the media when many reporters compromised their personal safety to report the truth to its readers/viewers. The webinar was moderated by Seema Mustafa, President, Editors Guild of India.
The following speakers took part in the 90 minute long webinar: K N Hari Kumar, former Editor-in-Chief – Deccan Herald, Om Gaur, National Editor – Dainik Bhaskar, Tanushree Pandey, Correspondent – India Today and AajTak, Yogiraj Prabhune, Health Correspondent – Sakal and Praveen Jain, National Photo Editor – The Print.
Dainik Bhaskar’s Editor, Om Gaur, who led the Hindi newspaper’s coverage of the pandemic including undercounting of the dead due to the virus, claimed that his publication faced obstacles from the government at every stage after they broke the story of the cremation and burial of thousands of deaths along the rivers of Uttar Pradesh. “ His publication suffered due to its reporting as the government stopped all advertising”.
Mr K N Hari Kumar who opened the session explained how Deccan Herald covered the pandemic. He pointed out numerous issues from lack of scientific awareness of coronavirus to the public & private health system of India and negligence of Government in terms of handling the pandemic at its earlier stage. Whereas, Mr Yogiraj unmasked the reasons behind the mass spread of coronavirus in Pune, Maharashtra.
Ms Tanushree Pandey, Correspondent, India Today and Aaj Tak said, “The most important challenge for the media organization was to keep the reporters safe and to get the story. A lot of freelance journalists were without these necessary safeguards.
Commenting on his coverage, Mr Praveen Jain, National Photo Editor, The Print. said, “In the last 35 years I have covered the ‘84 Sikh riots, communal riots of 1992 and the Kargil war, I think pandemic was the most difficult assignment. During reporting for the Kargil war, we were aware of how to keep ourselves safe, what to touch and whatnot, but this Corona bomb could not be seen as everyone was carrying it on their bodies. The pandemic had forced hotels, guesthouses to close, and we were forced to sleep in our cars while travelling to different places. Even Friends and families refused to provide a place to stay.
This riveting webinar was the first of its kind in which Editors and journalists shared their experiences of the pandemic and how it will have long term implications on the media.
Editors Guild of India condoles the death of Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, Danish Siddiqui, on July 16, in Afghanistan, while he was covering a clash between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near a border crossing with Pakistan. Siddiqui’s death is an irreplaceable loss to journalism.
Over the past decade, he had covered some of most heart wrenching stories of conflict and humanitarian crisis from South Asia and the surrounding regions- the Rohingya refugee crisis, the Nepal earthquake, war in Iraq, Easter blasts in Sri Lanka, protests in Hong Kong, the riots in North East Delhi in 2020, and most recently, the coverage of the devastating human tragedy caused by the pandemic. He was part of the Reuters team that won the Pulitzer prize in 2018 for documenting the Rohingya crisis.
For the past week, Siddiqui had been embedded as a journalist with the Afghan special forces in the southern province of Kandahar and he had been reporting on the on-going conflict between Afghan forces and the Taliban.
His work was therefore a living testament to the axiom of photojournalism, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”.
Danish Siddiqui’s death is a stern reminder of the great risks journalists takes to report from the frontlines of conflict.
At the same time, the Guild is deeply disturbed by the vicious and highly regrettable racist campaign being run against him by some sections of social media. His death is an occasion to remember him and all the journalists who have died in conflict reporting.
Editors Guild of India is deeply disturbed by the continuing trend of heavy-handedness by the state authorities in Uttar Pradesh with respect to journalists and media. The latest incident is that of an assault on a journalist by the Chief Development Officer (CDO), in the district of Unnao, UP, on July 10, 2021, when the former was covering polling for Block Pramukh elections. In a video that has gone viral on social media, Krishna Tiwari, a local journalist, is seen being beaten up by Divyanshu Patel (CDO), as well as reportedly some BJP workers.
EGI finds this incident highly condemnable and actionable. This incident has come against the backdrop of increased persecution of journalists in the state of UP, as the administration has punished, penalized, and incarcerated journalists in an effort to intimidate them from freely reporting on crimes, state excesses, and the management of the pandemic. Siddique Kappan, the journalist who was arrested while reporting on the rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras in October 2020, still remains in jail under the draconian UAPA, in spite of several appeals by the family and the civil society to afford him a fair trial and treatment.
Even though the CDO has subsequently apologized to the journalist, this attitude of heavy-handedness by the administration is hurting the democratic rights of the media, which becomes all the more crucial given that the state goes into polls next year.
EGI demands that strict action be taken against the official and that concrete steps be taken to improve the environment for independent journalism in the state.
The Editors Guild of India considers it reprehensible that images of women journalists and other professionals from minority community were posted online and shared over social media, in a denigrating manner, putting them “up for auction”. Journalist Fatima Khan, who had done intrepid reporting on the Delhi riots of 2020, was one of those targeted in these posts.
This vile attack is symptomatic of underlying misogyny in some sections of the society, especially against Muslim women as well as those who have been outspoken critics of the current government. Earlier this year, freelance journalist, Neha Dikshit, was threatened and harassed online, stalked, and had an attempted break in at her place, all which was linked to her journalism.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the misuse of digital and social media spaces to harass women journalists to intimidate and silence them. The Guild calls upon the law enforcement agencies as well as the National Commission for Women to take this issue with utmost urgency and to trace and punish the wrongdoers. The Guild also urges digital media and social media platforms to take appropriate and immediate steps to curtail such actions.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) by the Uttar Pradesh Police against The Wire and several other journalists, for their tweets on an assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on June 5th. In the video that was posted by those charged, the man is seen alleging that he was beaten up by some people and was forced him to chant ‘ Jai Shree Ram’.
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 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.
Further, it is 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.
The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the cavalier manner in which Uttar Pradesh Police is treating the mysterious death of TV journalist, Sulabh Srivastava, in Pratapgarh. Srivastava, who had been threatened by the liquor mafia for exposing their wrongdoings, had recently written a letter to the police expressing grave apprehensions for his life. He believed that some people were following him. The authorities paid no heed to his fears. Srivastava died a couple of days after he wrote the letter to the police. The police is passing off his death as being caused by an accident, claiming that his bike rammed into a handpump.
His death comes at a time when media is facing increasing pressures from central and state governments who insist that they follow the official narrative regarding the administration’s handling of the pandemic. What is further worrying is that the police and the local authorities liberally and unjustifiably use laws such as sedition and UAPA to file charges and arrest journalists. This is against the spirit of the judgment given by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh case and re-iterated in the recent sedition case against Vinod Dua.
Journalists and cartoonists critical of the government are also being targeted on social media, as pressures are being mounted by the government on these platforms to remove such critical journalists on the specious ground that they are violating the law of the land. All of this is contrary to the commitments that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made at the G-7 summit to democracy, openness and against authoritarianism.
The Editors Guild of India welcomes the Supreme Court judgment on the sedition case against senior journalist Vinod Dua.
The apex court not just quashed the criminal complaint against Dua, but has also underlined the importance of protecting journalists from sedition cases.
With regards to the earlier Kedar Nath Singh judgement and the need to protect journalists from sedition charges is welcome, the manner in which such laws are implemented by law enforcement authorities in different parts of the country, leading to pre-trial incarceration, needs further intervention by the apex court.
EGI expresses satisfaction with the Supreme Court’s concerns over the chilling effect that sedition laws have on free media and on our democracy. The Guild demands repeal of these draconian and antiquated laws that find no space in any modern liberal democracy.
Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the brazen airstrikes on a building in Gaza that housed the editorial offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. The bombing raid on 15th May 2021, demolished the 12-story building, destroying much of the camera and editing equipment, and severely affecting the news reporting and broadcasting capabilities of the two organisations. Besides the loss of hardware and office space, the bombing destroyed what was described as ‘home’ by some of the journalists.
Given the recent background of escalating conflict in this region, EGI sees this as a de facto attack on news media by the Israeli government, which can disrupt the flow of news from this highly volatile region and which has global security implications. The Guild demands that the Israeli government gives a detailed justification of the decision making behind this attack along with evidentiary proof. The Guild also calls for the Israeli government to facilitate a UN monitored investigation into this bombing raid.
Further, the Guild urges the Indian government to take up this issue with the Israeli government, demanding an independent inquiry and reiterating the need for ensuring safety of journalists in any conflict situation.
The Editors Guild of India condoles the deaths of journalists who have died because of Covid-19 over the past year. In April 2021 itself, more than 52 journalists died because of the virus. Further, according to the Delhi based Institute of Perception Studies, more than 100 journalists have died since the lockdown was first declared from April 1, 2020. Many of these were brave journalists who had been reporting on the worsening pandemic and bringing to fore stories on the great human tragedy that has been unfolding before us. It also includes editors and other members of the editorial teams who have ensured that newsrooms keep churning out these stories without any break. The Guild pays homage to the fortitude and the commitment to work that these journalists have displayed over the past year.
The Guild is extremely distressed that the central government has yet not taken any steps to hasten the vaccination of journalists over the last few months. Many of them were freelancers and hence were not insured. Others who worked for media organizations did not necessarily enjoy the assurance and comfort of being insured by their companies. To make matters worse, besides the health risks borne out of such reporting, there have been the additional pressures from some of the state governments and agencies that have threatened against independent reporting of the pandemic in an effort to control the media narrative.
Few weeks ago, EGI had demanded that journalists be declared as frontline workers and be vaccinated on priority to protect them from the new variant. Despite the support from various state governments and media organisations, the central government has not responded to this request. Now, even though vaccination has been technically opened for all above 18 years of age, there is the acute shortage of vaccines.
Therefore the Guild’s urgent demand that journalists be given priority along with other frontline workers. The Guild also urges all media organisations to take all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their journalists.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply disturbed by reports of inhuman treatment being meted out to the journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been in custody since October 2020, under the draconian UAPA, for trying to report on the rape and death of a Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. His wife has alleged that her husband has been tied to a bed and is neither able to take food nor access toilet, while undergoing treatment at a Mathura Hospital for Covid-19. This is shocking and should stir the conscience of the nation that a journalist is being treated in this cruel manner and being denied basic rights. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ajay Mohan Bisht, (Yogi Adityanath), has been ignoring the demands from his family and the civil society for fair treatment of the journalist. It is further shocking that the Supreme Court of India has yet not intervened in this case to ensure a fair trial of the journalist, even though the Habeas Corpus petition challenging his arrest has been pending before the court for the past six months. All of this goes against the basic canons of a constitutional democracy where independent journalistic enterprises need to be protected rather than repressed.
The Editors Guild of India had written a letter to the Chief Minister of UP in November 2020, highlighting several instances of state persecution and violence against journalists, including that of Kappan. Since then, the situation has only worsened. Recently, the CM threatened to seize the property of anyone who reported on the paucity of oxygen in hospitals in the state. Such declamations have a chilling effect on media freedom, at a time when there is urgent need for objective reporting and accountability on the worsening pandemic.
EGI demands that Siddique Kappan be given proper medical treatment at the earliest and that he be treated with dignity. The Guild also urges the Supreme Court to urgently take up the pending writ petition and give him a fair trial.
The Editors Guild of India is outraged by suggestions from certain influential sections within media, who have been casually and irresponsibly asking for suspension of our fundamental rights to speech and expression, when instead greater accountability is needed from the authorities for gross mishandling of this monumental health crisis. EGI sees these voices as an attempt to deflect attention from the objective and bold reporting by intrepid journalists, who, unmindful of their personal safety, are bringing to fore harsh facts about the spread of pandemic and its mismanagement by the authorities. In the absence of these reports, which are only possible in a constitutional democracy that safeguards free speech, the country and the world wouldn’t get a true picture of the enormity of the crisis. Even the courts would not have taken cognisance of the threat to lives of patients due to scarcity of oxygen and medicines.
EGI demands that the government regularly and truthfully shares data about the pandemic and their on-going response to it, with media and people at large.
Editors Guild of India demands withdrawal of Kashmir Police’s advisory forbidding journalists from reporting live encounters with militants on the specious plea that it is “likely to incite violence” or that it can promote “anti-national sentiment”. Nothing can be further from the truth. Visibly, the police is giving an impression of trying to maintain peace by attempting to control the fallout of violence in a high strung environment, but what is being instead done is an attempt by the security forces to escape from any kind of media scrutiny about the flow of events behind the violence.
Live reporting from conflict areas, including encounters between security forces and militants, is one of the most important journalistic duties of any responsible media, and requires extreme grit and determination on the part of reporters. At best, there may be some guidelines that can be issued with respect to reporting from such scenes, with the aim of protecting the integrity of tactics and plans of security agencies, as well as to avoid journalists from interfering with the evolving situation and from sensationalising the issue that can stir up emotions at audience’s end. Globally those have been the norms adopted by responsible governments.
In this respect, the advisory of Kashmir Police is draconian and undemocratic, and flies in the face of the stellar role journalists have played in reporting conflict in the country. Therefore the advisory must be withdrawn immediately.
The Editors Guild of India urges the Union Government to declare journalists as frontline workers and be allowed priority vaccination against Coronavirus, along with other frontline workers. News organizations have been relentlessly covering the pandemic, elections, and other current affairs in an effort to ensure that the flow of news and information to readers continues unabated. News media is at is included in essential services. Therefore it will only be fair that journalists be given this cover of protection, especially in the face of number of infected rising to astronomical levels. Without the protection of a vaccination, media persons are finding it very difficult to discharge their professional responsibilities.
Therefore EGI calls on the Union Government to immediately get all the journalists, regardless of age, vaccinated so that there is no disruption in their work during this critical time.
The Editors Guild of India is pleased to announce that Senior Advocates of the Supreme Court of India- Ms. Nitya Ramakrishnan, Ms. Vrinda Grover, Ms. Rebecca John, and Mr. Colin Gonsalves- have joined the Guild’s Legal Advisory Panel. All four senior lawyers have been at the forefront of defending freedom of speech throughout their professional journeys. The panel will also include Mr. Apar Gupta, who has worked extensively on privacy and internet freedom issues.
The Legal Advisory Panel was first constituted in November 2020, to advise and work with the Guild on important issues pertaining to press freedom. Since then, the members of the panel have worked with Guild members on some crucial cases.
The entire list of panel members is as follows:
1. Mr. Kapil Sibal
2. Ms. Nitya Ramakrishnan
3. Ms. Vrinda Grover
4. Mr. Shyam Divan
5. Mr. Rajiv Nayar
6. Mr. Colin Gonsalves
7. Ms. Rebecca John
8. Mr. Sanjay Hegde
9. Ms. Menaka Guruswamy
10. Mr. Prashant Kumar
11. Ms. Shahrukh Alam
12. Mr. Apar Gupta
The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the casual manner in which the editors of Kashmir based publications are routinely detained by security forces for reporting or for their editorials. The case in point is the recent detention and the subsequent release- after many hours- of Fahad Shah, editor-in-chief of The Kashmir Walla, a Srinagar based publication. This was the third time that Shah was detained for his writings. His is not the only case. There are scores of journalists who are experiencing this new normal where they can be hauled up by security forces for writing anything that goes contrary to the government narrative that peace has returned to the valley.
The EGI demands that the state administration creates circumstances where press can report on news and express opinion without any fear or favour.
The Editors Guild of India [EGI] is deeply concerned about the notification of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Rules, issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, fundamentally alter how publishers of news operate over the Internet and have the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in India.
They empower the Union Government to block, delete, or modify published news anywhere in the country without any judicial oversight and mandate all publishers to establish a grievance redressal mechanism. Various provisions in these rules can place unreasonable restrictions on digital news media, and consequently media at large.
The EGI is concerned that the Government did not consult stakeholders before notifying these far-reaching rules. The Guild urges the Government to put the rules in abeyance and conduct meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.
The government must take note of the fact that in the name of reining an unfettered social media it cannot overwhelm India’s constitutional safeguards for free media that has been the cornerstone of our democracy.
Editors Guild of India statement on ED raids at the office of NewsClick.in, and residences of its senior journalists and officials
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), at the office of the independent news website NewsClick.in, the residences of its editor-in-chief and promoter, the editor, as well as some of its senior management officials.
In the recent past the website has been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers agitation, the anti-CAA protests, and has been critical of various government policies and of a few powerful corporates houses.
EGI is concerned that raids by government agencies are not used as coercive measures to suppress free and independent journalism. The Guild demands that care be taken to not undermine the news operations of NewsClick and that it’s journalists and stakeholders are not harassed under the garb of such measures.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over the incarceration of freelance journalist Mandeep Punia who was reporting on the farm protest from Singhu border.
Punia’s arrest is an attempt to muzzle young courageous voices of independent journalists that through reporting are busting fake news and speaking truth to power.
EGI demands that Mandeep Punia be released forthwith and Delhi Police restore circumstances in which media can report without fear or favour.
The Editors Guild of India statement condemning the intimidating manner in which UP and MP police have registered FIRs against senior journalists, for reporting on farmers’ protests in Delhi on Jan 26
The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the intimidating manner in the way in which the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Police have registered FIRs against senior editors and journalists (including current and former office bearers of EGI) for reporting on the farmers’ protest rallies and the ensuing violence that took place in the national capital on 26th January.
The journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protestors on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent. It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice.
The FIRs allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort. Nothing can be further from truth. On a day thick with information, the EGI finds these FIRs, filed in different states, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. That the FIRs have been booked under as many as ten different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing.
This targeting of journalists grievously violates and tramples on every value that our democratic republic stands for. It is intended to grievously hurt the media and prevent it from working as an independent watchdog of Indian democracy.
We demand that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom. We also re-iterate our earlier demand that the higher judiciary takes serious cognizance of the fact that several laws such as a sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement on the arrest warrant against senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the use of intimidatory tactics by powerful corporate houses against journalists to prevent media scrutiny. The case in point is the non-bailable arrest warrant that has been issued against senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, by a court in Gujarat’s Kutch district, for an article he had co-authored against the Adani group in 2017.
The issue of a non-bailable warrant by a lower court against Mr. Thakurta is another example of how intolerant the business houses have become to any criticism. Routinely they have targeted independent and intrepid journalists by using the very instruments that provide media the necessary protection.
At the same time, the Editors Guild is disturbed on how the judiciary in this case has become a part of this exercise to muzzle free press. Criminal defamation laws are often used by those in power to suppress any scrutiny by the media, and this case is a prime example of how such laws can be misused against the cause of free and independent media.
The Editors Guild of India strongly urges the Adani group to withdraw the criminal case against Mr. Thakurta. We further urge the higher judiciary to take cognizance of the fact that laws such as a criminal defamation are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement on the arrest of journalists in Manipur under sedition laws as well as UAPA.
The Editors Guild of India considers the recent arrest of a writer and two editors of Manipur website The Frontier Manipur under the Indian Penal Code applicable to sedition and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as a brazen violation of every constitutional safeguard given for freedom of expression.
What’s worrying and shocking is that the Manipur police has arrested the Editor in Chief Sadokpam Diren, Executive Editor Paojel Chaoba and the the writer of the reportedly offending article M.Joy Luwang under these draconian anti-terror laws for their analysis of the politics of Manipur state.
EGI believes that till the police is not nuanced in fundamental rights and various Supreme Court judgments on the imperative to protect freedom, no media organisation is safe from the irrational use of these laws.
This is not the first time the administration has used draconian laws like sedition and UAPA against editors and journalists. In the past too, journalists holding opinions contrary to the dominant narrative have been subjected to retaliation by the administration. In Manipur itself journalists have been targeted and arrested under these laws for doing little more than posting critical comments on Facebook.
EGI demands the immediate release of the editors and withdrawal of these cases that pose a threat to free expression, and to democracy itself.
Editors Guild of India statement on on the extradition case filed by the United States government against Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, in a court in UK.
Taking note of a UK court’s judgment that has turned down the United States government’s request to extradite Wikileaks promoter, Julian Assange, the Editors Guild of India urges the US government to withdraw all charges against him so that this travesty of liberties ends.
Over the past decade Julian Assange has been subjected to persecution, including imprisonment for doing his journalistic duty of bringing truth to power. The US government, which has been leading this harassment and intimidation, has made a mockery of freedom of speech that is explicitly assured in the US constitution and what ought to be a universal democratic practice.
If the Department of Justice, USA, does not drop charges under the espionage act of ‘publishing documents’ against Assange, it would have implications on how governments all over the world- including India- perceive investigative and national security journalism. Though the British court turned down the request for extraditing Assange, it did so on grounds of his mental condition and not for protecting his freedom of speech and exercising his journalistic duty. The Assange case could have been a path breaker to ensure that individuals exercising their democratic rights are protected against governments they scrutinise.
To uphold media freedom and the larger principles of democracy, the US government must drop all charges against Assange immediately and allow his release from jail.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a Media Advisory on the news coverage of the ongoing farmers’ protests in the national capital
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) is concerned about the news coverage of the farmers’ protests in the national capital, wherein certain sections of the media have been labelling them as “Khalistanis”, “ anti-nationals”, and other such terms to delegitimise the protests without any evidence or proof. This goes against the tenets of responsible and ethical journalism. Such actions compromise the credibility of the media.
EGI advises media organizations to display fairness, objectivity, and balance in reporting the farmers’ protests, without displaying partisanship against those who are exercising their constitutional rights to express themselves. Media shouldn’t be complicit to any narrative that derogates dissent and stereotypes protestors based on their attire and ethnicity.
Editors Guild of India statement on the Press Council of India advisory, cautioning media against “unregulated circulation” of “foreign contents”.
The Editors Guild of India is perturbed by the unprovoked advisory issued by the Press Council of India on November 25, 2020 to the media, cautioning them against “unregulated circulation” of “foreign contents (sic)”.
Through this advisory, it appears that the Council, which swears by self-regulation of media and believes that any government interference would be destructive to press freedom, is lending it’s weight towards a step that could bring in some form of censorship and punitive actions against those organizations that publish content, which in it’s view is seen as “not desirable”. The advisory does not specify who will verify the content, on what criterion will it be verified, and most importantly, what does “unregulated circulation” even mean.
Many publications in the country license and reproduce content from foreign agencies, newspapers, and periodicals, which is a prerogative of the editor, and who is in any case responsible for all the content published in their publication. A reiteration by the Council at this juncture of this established practice, in an ominous sounding advisory, has disturbing implications.
Editors Guild urges the PCI, which should be committed to press freedom, to withdraw this advisory immediately.
Legal Advisory Panel for the Editors Guild of India
The Editors Guild of India is pleased to announce a Legal Advisory Panel that will advise and work with the Guild on important issues pertaining to press freedom. The panel will help the Guild craft responses to the complex web of civil and criminal laws that are used by authorities to suppress media freedom.
The panel includes:
- Mr. Kapil Sibal
- Mr. Shyam Divan
- Mr. Rajiv Nayar
- Mr. Sanjay Hegde
- Ms. Menaka Guruswamy
- Mr. Prashant Kumar
- Ms. Shahrukh Alam
The panel will be expanded in the coming days to include more members of the legal fraternity from across different states, who have worked in the realm of freedom of expression and media related issues.
Editors Guild of India statement on the amendments to the Kerala Police Act
The Editors Guild of India urges the Chief Minister of Kerala to withdraw the disturbing amendment to the Kerala Police Act 118 A immediately, which provides for upto three years of punishment for publication of material with an intention to intimidate, insult, or defame any person through social media. Although the government has placed the amendment on hold until discussed by the state assembly and has given an assurance to the Kerala High Court that the state police will not take any adverse actions, but the ordinance is still in force and has the potential for grave misuse and should be withdrawn forthwith.
The amendment to the Kerala Police Act would deeply hurt the cause of free speech and freedom of press as it gives unbridled powers to the police to target political opposition and the press in the name of monitoring content on social media
Editors Guild of India statement on criminal charges against Patricia Mukhim, editor of Shillong Times
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned to see Padma Shri awardee and Editor of Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim, being dragged through a cumbersome criminal charge procedure that is borne out of a complaint on one of her social media posts. The criminal complaint was filed in response to her Facebook post in July 2020 over a skirmish between tribal and non-tribal youth in Lawsohtun at a basketball court. Mukhim’s case is a reflection of the larger threats to freedom of speech in India, which operates under an unwieldy framework of laws that are often used indiscriminately by government and law enforcement agencies to muzzle dissent.
In her post, Mukhim claimed that the continued attacks on non-tribals had gone unpunished, which had turned Meghalaya into a failed state. The Dorbar Shnong (a Khasi tribal institution) perceived it as a divisive comment and filed a complaint with the police, which registered a criminal case under sections 153A/500/505C IPC (offences promoting disharmony and enmity between different groups as well as criminal defamation) and asked her to present herself before the investigating officer. In her endeavor to seek legal remedy against the FIR, Mukhim went to the Meghalaya High Court, but the court, on November 10, refused to quash the criminal proceedings.
Mukhim’s case is an example of how multiple legal provisions can be used against free speech and therefore against free press. Several provisions across multiple laws give a handle to government agencies and law enforcement authorities to lodge criminal cases against journalists wherein the criminal complaint procedure itself becomes an exacting punishment, and acts as deterrent against exercise of free speech. Media’s prime responsibility is to question the affairs of the government and report information, however harsh and disturbing it may be. They cannot be held liable for relaying information that may bring to fore details on fault lines within the society, or for that matter, mismanagement and corruption in government affairs.
Editors Guild of India underlines the need for higher judiciary to take cognizance of these crucial issues that impede freedom of speech and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press.
Editors Guild of India letter to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on press freedom and journalists’ rights in the state of UP
Sh. Yogi Adityanath
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister’s Secretariat
Lok Bhawan, Vidhan Sabha Marg
Subject: Protection of press freedom and journalists’ rights in the state of UP
We are writing to urge you to address vital issues with respect to protecting press freedom and the rights and safety of working journalists, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In the recent past, several incidents have come to fore, which raise deep concerns on the space for free, fearless and independent journalism in Uttar Pradesh.
While you were right to promptly uphold the freedom of the press when an editor of a TV channel was arrested in Mumbai, there are far more compelling cases of intimidation, harassment by authorities of working journalists in UP, who were prevented from doing their job. Many of them have been unjustifiably arrested on spurious charges. We are listing below some such cases:
1. Siddique Kappan: A Delhi-based journalist who works for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham, accompanied by three others, was on his way to Hathras, to report the gang rape of a dalit girl, when he was picked up in Mathura on October 5, 2020 and later booked under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Two others, reportedly associated with Campus Front of India, the students’ wing of Kerala–based Popular Front of India, were charged by the UP police of planting evidence in the form of a pamphlet. Kappan, along with others, is lodged in Mathura jail. According to the police they were part of an internationally-funded “conspiracy” to stoke caste riots in UP in the wake of the Hathras gang rape. On November 4, the Mathura chief judicial magistrate granted 48-hour police remand to the UP Special Task Force for questioning. He still remains in jail and his family hasn’t been allowed to speak to him.
2. Supriya Sharma: A case was registered against Supriya Sharma, Executive Editor of Scroll, on June 18, 2020 under the SC/ST Act and IPC 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) for reporting a series of stories on the poor state of affairs in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency. The case was filed on the complaint of Mala Devi, a resident of Domari, the village adopted by PM Modi in Varanasi, alleging that Supriya Sharma had wrongly reported that her condition had worsened during the Corona virus induced lockdown due to a shortage of food support.
3. Cases were filed against five journalists of Bijnor- Ashish Tomar, Shakil Ahmed, Lakhan Singh, Aamir Khan and Moin Ahmad on September 7, 2020 under IPC 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 268 (public nuisance) and 503 (criminal intimidation) and Section 66A of the IT Act. The FIR had charged Tomar and Ahmed of trying to vitiate social amity by circulating fake news about a Valmiki family from Titarwala Basi village, under Mandwar police station, putting their house on sale after not being allowed to collect water from the village hand pump due to the harassment of local musclemen. The journalists stood by their story and the district administration had to take back the case after an action committee of scribes lodged a protest.
4. Ravindra Saxena: For reporting about the mismanagement of a quarantine centre of Maholi tehsil of Sitapur, this reporter of Today-24 a news portal, was booked under SC/ST Act and the Disaster Management Act. After protests of journalists, Saxena’s arrest was stalled but the FIR has not been withdrawn.
5. Vijay Vineet and Manish Mishra: Cases were filed against these journalists from a local daily Janadesh Times for their report appearing on March 26, 2020 regarding the plight of the Musahar residents of Koiripur village in Varanasi district accompanied by a visual showing children eating grass.
6. Asad Rizvi, a Lucknow based freelance journalist, was assaulted by the police on October 2, while he was reporting on protests in the city, in the aftermath of the rape of a dalit girl in Hathras a few weeks earlier. In a complaint letter written by Rizvi to police and state authorities, he mentioned that he was beaten up by 7-8 policemen, even though he had told them he was a journalist and was simply covering the protest site. After that, the police tried to break his mobile phone and confiscated his memory card.
As the Chief Minister of India’s largest state, you are well aware of the important precedence that the state sets with respect to safeguarding all constitutional rights. This is especially crucial with respect to preserving the space for free media, more so at a time when the world has been in the throes of a pandemic. Media has played an important role in raising awareness about the pandemic.
We urge you to free the jailed journalists, withdraw cases that are under review, as well as to ensure safety of all working journalists in the state.
Editors Guild is keen to send a delegation of national Editors to Lucknow, to meet you and to work with your administration to explore ways that can create a protective environment for the media to work without fear or favor.
We look forward to a positive response.
Seema Mustafa, President
Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary
Anant Nath, Treasurer
Editors Guild of India statement on the arrest of Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV.
The Editors Guild of India is shocked to learn about the arrest of Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, in the early hours of Wednesday by the Police. Goswami was arrested from his Mumbai residence on reportedly an abetment to suicide case. We condemn the sudden arrest and find it extremely distressing.
The Guild calls upon the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to ensure that Goswami is treated fairly and state power is not used against critical reporting by the media.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the FIRs filed against journalists of Republic TV, which is under probe for allegedly manipulating TRPs
The Editors Guild of India is pained to see the unedifying spectacle of hundreds of FIRs being filed against journalists of Republic TV, which is under probe for allegedly manipulating TRPs and spreading discontent against the Mumbai police. We do not wish to influence the probe by the authorities, even if we recognise it has the potential to bring in much needed transparency on the manipulation of popularity, and creation of “ proceeds of crime”- as claimed by the police; but the victimization of the journalists should immediately stop. The use of arbitrary state power is not and has never been in the interests of working journalists.
This standoff between the Mumbai Police and the TV channel is unprecedented and threatens the tenuous but important to maintain balance between media freedom and the imperative for it to reside within the rule of law. Right to free speech does not mean a licence to promote hate speech.
Besides the unsavory details pertaining to the manipulation of TRPs, the Republic TV’s high-strung conduct during the unfortunate demise of film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput also raises issues about media credibility and the limits to reporting. The Mumbai High Court has pertinently asked the channel’s lawyer about harangue directed at actress Rhea Chakraborty. The High Court asked a question that must be addressed by all: “Is this part of investigative journalism? Asking the public about their opinion on who should be arrested?” Also, the bench wondered whether the channel in the name of investigative journalism was encroaching into the domain of police. Similar reservations about its conduct have been expressed even by News Broadcaster’s association (NBA) that disagrees with its reporting.
These are important issues that should have been resolved long ago, but were allowed to fester. It is high time the channel behaves responsibly and not compromises the safety of its journalists as well as hurt the collective credibility of media. The police must ensure that its investigation does not hurt the channel’s journalists or makes any arrests. And that the investigation does not become a tool to suppress media rights.
The unprecedented and sudden sealing of the Srinagar offices of Kashmir Times is reprehensible, and has disturbing implications for the media of the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Newspapers and Magazines in the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir were already ravaged by conflict, with editors and correspondents working against difficult odds.
Publications have steadily lost advertising over the last decade. Jammu and Kashmir’s communication shutdowns, followed by the pandemic lockdown, have totally stopped the trickle of revenue. The online editions are crippled by the slow internet speed imposed by the government. The Kashmir Times, a 55-year-old publication, was forced to shut down its Srinagar edition in March.
Instead of assisting the media, which was most needed in these dark times, the administration without any notice took control of the office of Kashmir Times, putting its lock on the door. The newspaper editor, Ms. Anuradha Bhasin, and the staff have been denied access to records, computers, furniture and equipment in the office.
The Editors Guild of India considers the action of state administration vindictive and injurious not just to the Kashmir Times, but also to the entire free media in the Union Territory. The Guild calls upon the government of Jammu and Kashmir to restore status quo, and to create circumstances in which media can function without hindrance and without fear.
Editors Guild of India is dismayed at the brazen attack by a Delhi Police official on a journalist of The Caravan magazine while he was carrying out his duty as a member of the press.
On 16 October, Mr. Ahan Penkar was reporting on the alleged rape and murder of a teenaged Dalit girl in North Delhi. The teenaged girl’s family and some student activists had organised a protest outside the Model Town police station. The police detained the protestors as well as Penkar, even when he was performing his professional duty. Despite displaying his press credentials, Penkar was slapped, kicked and detained by the Police for 4 hours. His phone was seized and his reported material including photographs were deleted.
The egregious assault on Caravan’s reporter violates constitutional principles and media’s right to report freely. EGI demands strict action from the Union Home Ministry and Delhi Police Commissioner against police officials involved in this assault so that such incidents do not take place in the future. Also, it should instruct halting of any case against the journalist.
Penkar is the fourth journalist from The Caravan who has been attacked in the last two months in the Indian capital.
The Editors Guild of India is pleased to announce that Seema Mustafa, Editor of The Citizen, is its new President. This follows the announcement of the results of an online election held on October 16. In the same election, Sanjay Kapoor, Editor of Hardnews, was elected as General Secretary. Anant Nath, Editor of The Caravan, was elected unopposed as Treasurer. Ms Mustafa will succeed Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of ThePrint, while Mr Kapoor and Mr Nath will take over from A.K. Bhattacharya, Editorial Director of Business Standard, and Sheela Bhatt, Contributing Editor of Rediff.com, respectively.
The Editors Guild of India notes with dismay and concern the vindictive manner in which governments, including their agencies, have in the last two days acted against media organisations.
On October 15, Prasar Bharati, the Union government’s public broadcasting agency, cancelled its subscription of news services from the Press Trust of India (PTI), the country’s largest news service provider. This followed Prasar Bharati’s decision to invite fresh proposals for digital subscription to English text and related multimedia services from all domestic news agencies. The PTI is also allowed to submit its proposals once they are invited as are other news service providers like the UNI, whose arrangement too has been cancelled.
A few months ago, a senior official of Prasar Bharati had criticised the PTI for what he believed was its “anti-national coverage” of news pertaining to India-China ties.
On the same day in the Keonjhar district of Odisha, the state police picked up a senior journalist, Ramesh Rath, employed with a regional news channel, OTV, on charges of having circulated an obscene video last year. OTV has stated that the journalist has been targeted for having done a series of reports exposing the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha, although the state police has denied the allegations, saying that no arrest has yet been made.
The Guild believes that such actions threaten as well as undermine the independent functioning of the media organisations. These should be withdrawn forthwith.
The Editors Guild Of India condemns the manner in which the law enforcement agencies of the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, have prevented media persons from reporting on developments in and around Hathras after a brutal assault on a woman leading to her death and the hurried cremation of her body by the authorities without the presence of the family of the deceased.
Equally reprehensible is the way the government has tapped the telephones of journalists engaged in covering the Hathras incidents. Worse, the tapped conversation of the journalists has been selectively leaked, leading to a social media calumny against them.
Not allowing the media to visit the incident spots and tapping the phone conversation of journalists undermine and obstruct the functioning of the media. The Guild demands that the government creates conditions in Hathras that do not obstruct journalists in any way.
Hathras is the worst such case in the scale of interference but the Guild also notes with concern that such attacks against the media are becoming part of a growing trend seen in recent months, in which a few other state governments have also indulged in such harassment of journalists. The Guild condemns these and demands corrective action.
The Editors Guild of India has unequivocally condemned recent attacks on journalists while they were on duty.
Three journalists working with The Caravan were allegedly assaulted while they were in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood on August 11 to report on a complainant in the recent communal violence case in the Capital. They also say they were subjected to communal slurs, threatened with murder and sexually harassed.
On the same day in Bengaluru, as many as four journalists belonging to India Today, The News Minute and Suvarna News 24X7 were reportedly attacked by the city police. These journalists at that time were on duty, reporting on the vandalism and police shooting in the wake of a mob violence in the city.
Both attacks are reprehensible. The freedom of the media to discharge its responsibilities without fear or harassment is an important and indispensable attribute of a functioning democracy. The case of assault on journalists working with The Caravan shows a dangerous trend where communally inspired people can assault and harass journalists with impunity in the presence of an indifferent police. The Bengaluru incident also highlights the failure of the law enforcement agencies in maintaining an environment where the media can function freely and without fear.
The Editors Guild of India demands that the police authorities in Delhi and Bengaluru take cognizance of both the cases and quickly take necessary steps to initiate action against the guilty.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) at Varanasi’s Ramnagar police station against Scroll Executive Editor Supriya Sharma and its Chief Editor over a report published from Varanasi’s Domari village. The FIR was filed on June 13 under Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as also under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act). This followed a complaint by Mala Devi, who was quoted by Supriya Sharma in her report, published on Scroll.in on June 8.
The Guild has also noted the reported statement from Scroll.in saying that it stood by the article in question. The statement also clarified that it had interviewed Mala Devi in Domari village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on June 5, 2020 and that her statements had been reported accurately in the article titled, “In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown.”
In view of the categorical statement from Scroll.in, the Guild is of the view that the use of the various Sections of the IPC and the SC/ST Act are an overreaction and will seriously undermine freedom of the media. The use of criminal provisions of the law against journalists has now become an unhealthy and despicable trend that has no place in any vibrant democracy. It needs to be resisted as well as eliminated. The Guild respects all laws of the land as also the right of Mala Devi to defend herself against any acts of injustice. But it also finds the flagrant misuse of such laws unjustifiable and reprehensible. Worse, the increasing frequency of such misuse of laws by the authorities is tantamount to shooting the messenger and destroying a key pillar of India’s democracy.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned by the growing tendency among police in various states to take cognisance of frivolous charges against journalists and convert them into a First Information Report (FIR).
The latest instance is of the Delhi Police’s FIR against veteran journalist Vinod Dua, based on a complaint by Naveen Kumar, who has been identified as a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The accusations are a brazen attack on his right to free speech and fair comment. An FIR based on this is an instrument of harassment setting off a process that is itself a punishment.
The Guild unequivocally condemns this practice and urges the police to respect Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms rather than behave in a manner that raises questions on its independence.
The Editors Guild of India notes with concern a growing pattern of misuse of criminal laws to intimidate journalists in different parts of the country.
Dhaval Patel, editor and owner of a Gujarati news portal, ‘Face of Nation’, was booked for sedition and detained by the state police on May 11 for publishing a report suggesting the possibility of a leadership change in the state due to criticism over rising coronavirus cases. Patel was charged with sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and with spreading false panic under Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act (DMA). This is a misuse of special laws, besides sedition and IPC.
The second instance of egregious and high-handed action has come from Delhi Police. On May 10, the Delhi Police sent a notice to Mahender Singh Manral, Special Correspondent, The Indian Express, through the City Editor and Chief Reporter, The Indian Express, requiring the journalist, who had reported that police investigations found the possibility of the audio clip of Tablighi Jamaat leader, Maulana Saad, being doctored, to join a probe on this matter on May 10.
While Manral wasn’t charged under any law, he was threatened that failure to join the probe could result in legal action under Section 174 of the IPC with punishment of a prison term and fine. This appears to be a little more than a fishing expedition to try and extract the journalist’s source and, thus, warn other reporters.
These instances of police action in Gujarat and Delhi are deeply disturbing. The government and the police must recognise that the media is an integral part of the governance structure in any democracy. The Guild condemns these actions and asks the state and central governments to desist from misusing the law to threaten the free press.
The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the physical attack against senior editors of Republic TV channel Arnab Goswami and Samyabrata Ray in the early hours of Thursday, April 23, in Mumbai, when they were returning home from work. Any physical attack, instigation for hate or verbal abuse hurled against any journalist is a reprehensible act. The freedom to express one’s views or report facts without any fear or intimidation whatsoever is the most fundamental tenet of journalism.
The Guild asks the Mumbai Police to bring to book those who had attacked the two editors.
The Editors Guild of India has noted with shock and concern the high-handed manner in which the law enforcement agencies in Jammu & Kashmir have used the prevailing laws to deal with two Srinagar-based journalists, Masrat Zahra, a young freelance photographer, and Peerzada Ashiq, a reporter working for The Hindu. While only an FIR has been filed in connection with a report filed by Peerzada Ashiq, the authorities in the union territory have used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against Masrat Zahra.
Any recourse to such laws for merely publishing something in the mainstream or social media is a gross misuse of power. Its only purpose can be to strike terror into journalists. The Guild also believes that this is an indirect way of intimidating journalists in the rest of the country as well.
The journalists should be put to no harm or further harassment. If the government has any grievance against their reporting, there are other ways of dealing with such issues in the normal course. Mere social media posts of factual pictures can’t attract the toughest anti-terror laws passed for hardened terrorists. And in the case of The Hindu reporter, the correct course was to escalate the complaint to the newspaper’s editor.
The Guild demands that the Union Territory administration of Jammu & Kashmir withdraw the charges forthwith.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply perturbed over the recent government statement before the Supreme Court putting the blame on the media for causing panic among migrant workers leading to their mass movement in the wake of the lockdown.
This led the apex court to observe that while it didn’t want to inhibit the debate on the pandemic in any way, the media should refer to and publish the official version of the developments pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic. The Guild would state in all humility that it holds the court in the highest respect, but finds this advice gratuitous and unnecessary.
Blaming the media at this juncture can only undermine the current work being done by it under trying circumstances. Such charges can also obstruct in the process of dissemination of news during an unprecedented crisis facing the country. No democracy anywhere in the world is fighting the pandemic by gagging its media.
The Guild’s attention has also been drawn to the lodging of a First Information Report against the Editor-in-Chief of the website TheWire. A police action in the form of an FIR under criminal laws at this stage is an overreaction and an act of intimidation.
Any such intimidation of the media or blaming the media for mass migration of workers will be counterproductive. Such actions will be tantamount to disabling the messenger.
The Guild believes for sure that the media must be responsible, free and fair. But such interference can only undermine those goals.
The Editors Guild of India has noted with concern that high-handed and arbitrary police action has obstructed many journalists from reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in many parts of the country. Such action is self-defeating when media freedoms are critically important for covering the outbreak and the state response.
The job of the police is not to impede journalists’ work, especially under current circumstances, but to facilitate their functioning. The State and Union Territory governments and the police also need to be reminded that media has been exempted as an essential service under the current lockdown guidelines of the Union Home Ministry.
The Guild, therefore, urges all law enforcement agencies to let the media play its role as smoothly as possible. It also urges the government to put in place a suitable mechanism to facilitate minister-level regular briefings during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, so that communication does not suffer as it doesn’t give the media adequate opportunity to ask questions.
The Editors Guild of India expresses serious concern over the manner in which journalists assigned to cover the violence in Delhi have been targeted for physical attack. There are reports of journalists being hospitalised after such attack.
The Guild notes that journalists being attacked is tantamount to a direct assault on press freedom and those guilty of having indulged in such violence must be brought to book.
It urges the Delhi Police to take necessary steps to provide protection to journalists and prevent any such attack in the future. It also requests the Home Ministry, under which Delhi Police functions, to investigate these incidents and punish the guilty. The Home Ministry must also direct Delhi Police to take appropriate action.
The Editors Guild of India is grieved by the untimely demise of senior journalist Ashwini Chopra, who was the resident editor of Punjab Kesari, a Hindi-language newspaper brought out by the Hind Samachar Group. Mr Chopra, a former member of Parliament, died after a prolonged illness. He was 63 and a grandson of Lala Jagat Narain who had founded the Hind Samachar Group and had fallen victim to a terrorist attack. Mr Chopra’s father Romesh Chander also was assassinated by terrorists.
In a condolence message, the Guild noted the contribution, the Hind Samachar group made in upholding independence and freedom of the media in the face of terrorism and violence in Punjab in the 1980’s. Mr Chopra, also known by his pet name Minna, had earned a post-graduate degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and was an avid cricketer. The Guild extends its heart-felt condolences to the bereaved family.
The Editors Guild of India has noted with deep dismay and concern the deplorable act of Amit Malviya, the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology cell, in which he conducted an offensive, McCarthyist social media ‘poll’ on noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.
The poll on Twitter was not only tasteless, it also questioned the integrity and patriotism of Mr Sardesai, who is a journalist of standing and a former President of the Editors Guild of India.
The Twitter poll by a national head of the BJP also raises questions on the
party’s commitment to healthy debate and dissent without allowing disagreement to degenerate into abuse. The Guild urges Mr Malviya to immediately withdraw the so-called Twitter poll, and the BJP to caution him strongly.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the various acts of violence and brutality committed by police forces, in particular those in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, against media persons in different parts of the country in the last one week.
The Guild reminds the police forces across the country that journalists are present at different venues, where protests are taking place, as part of their Constitutionally guaranteed duties of gathering information and disseminating it among the people through their respective media platforms. Using force or physical violence against journalists on duty throttles the very voice of democracy and media freedom.
The Guild urges the Union Home Ministry to direct police forces in different states to offer adequate protection to journalists engaged in coverage of the ongoing protests. Instead of targeting them for physical attack, the need of the hour is to ensure proper and responsible coverage, a goal that cannot be achieved by such acts of violence and brutality against journalists on duty.
The Editors Guild of India has deplored the indefensible acts of violence perpetrated on employees of Prag News, a 24X7 Assamese news channel, by police forces. The Guild’s attention has been drawn to a social media video that shows uniformed policemen running amok outside the Prag News offices, targeting cameramen belonging to the television channel with their batons. The Guild demands that an inquiry should be instituted to identify those who indulged in such violence against journalists, and punish the guilty.
The Guild is also concerned over the recent advisory issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting to all private television channels asking them to desist from broadcasting content that could incite violence or cause law and order problems or ‘anti-national’ feelings.
The Guild believes that the media’s overall commitment to responsible coverage of developments in the country should not be questioned through such an advisory. It is the media’s responsibility to report freely and truthfully and fairly. The Guild decries such a regressive advisory that interferes in the functioning of a free media, and urges the government to withdraw it.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over the Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to delegate powers to the secretaries of different departments to file complaints and lodge cases against the media through the public prosecutor against published or broadcast news items that they consider defamatory.
The Guild believes that such blanket powers to the top civil servants in each of the departments of the state government will be prone to misuse and their rampant application will do grievous damage to the freedoms of the media. The Guild has always upheld the principles of free, fair and responsible journalism. But such powers, earlier exercised only by the information commissioner, are now delegated to all secretaries and this will seriously undermine the functioning of the media.
The Guild urges the Andhra Pradesh Government to withdraw this order. Criminal defamation is bad enough by itself, in the hands of individuals. If the state were to employ it with its own limitless resources, it will amount to censorship by another name.
The Editors Guild of India is distressed to note that an unwritten ban has been imposed by the YSR Congress-led government in Andhra Pradesh on two Telugu news channels – TV5 and ABN. Such restrictions strike at the root of press freedom. The Guild urges the Andhra Pradesh government to clarify if it indeed has in any way been responsible for the stoppage in telecasting of these two television channels. If so, it should immediately rescind any such order.
The Guild urges the government not to create a situation where the constitutionally and legally mandated freedoms of media representatives are compromised.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the Uttar Pradesh government’s action of filing an FIR under serious sections of criminal law against journalist Pawan Jaiswal for his report that mere rotis and salt were being served to school children as their lawfully guaranteed mid-day meal in Siyur primary school, Mirzapur.
It is a cruel and classic case of shooting the messenger. It is precisely exposés such as these that show how valuable free and fearless journalists are to a democratic society. It is shocking that instead of taking action to fix what is wrong on the ground, the government has filed criminal cases against the journalist. Even if the government believes that his report is wrong, there are easy and conventional redresses available. Using the IPC and police is no way to respond to this.
The Guild urges that the state government withdraw these cases forthwith and ensure that the journalist is not put to any further harm or harassment.
The Guild also expresses grave concern over recent incidents of restrictions on the overseas travel of journalists. The latest being the denial of travel permission at the airport for journalist Gowhar Geelani, who works for a German media organisation. The law does indeed give the government such powers but only in the rarest of rare cases and following due procedure and disclosure. There must be transparency in these decisions.
The Guild urges the government not to create a situation where the constitutionally and legally mandated freedoms of media representatives are compromised.
The Editors Guild of India is gravely concerned that the Press Council of India, an institution created to safeguard press freedom, is not only failing to speak up for it but is perversely arguing for a media clampdown in the name of national interest. This, at a time when reporters on the ground are being targeted for doing their job.
The Guild believes that it is a free media that offers a reliable feedback loop to those in charge of governance, that keeps the citizenry well informed so as to ensure responsive governments, and which acts as a safety valve for the expression of frustrations or criticism that can grow if attempts are made to suppress them. A free media is, therefore, very much in the national interest.
Specifically, the Guild expects the chairman of the Press Council of India to rescind his unilateral decision, apparently taken without consulting Council members, to intercede in a case in the Supreme Court concerning extreme and unrelenting restrictions placed on the media in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Guild urges the Press Council to objectively ascertain the trying circumstances in which the press is working in Jammu and Kashmir and lend its moral and institutional weight to help ease the restrictions that stand in the way of fair and accurate reporting.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over the continued shutdown in communication links with the Kashmir Valley and the consequent curtailment of the media’s freedom and ability to report fairly and accurately on current developments.
While some visiting journalists may be able to file their reports once they are out of the Valley, the lockdown is almost total and draconian for the vibrant local media that are the first eyes and ears on the ground. The Government knows very well that it is impossible to process and publish news now without the internet. It owes it to the people of India, including all in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, to allow the press, a vital institution of democracy, to function freely.
In a situation such as that prevailing in Jammu & Kashmir at present, the role of free media, unhindered by such restrictions, becomes critically important in helping dissemination of news and in its democratic duty of keeping a watch on institutions of government and security.
The Guild underlines the imprudence in creating an unfair distinction in the treatment: for access, curfew passes, communication between local journalists and those coming in to report from outside. All journalists and all Indian citizens are entitled to equal freedoms.
The Guild urges the government to take immediate steps to restore normalcy for the media’s communication links. Media transparency has and always should be India’s strength, not fear.
The Guild expresses its appreciation for and solidarity to all journalists reporting from the ground despite unprecedented challenges. The Guild requests all, especially the government, to ensure their safety and freedom of movement.
Office-bearers of the Editors Guild of India called on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at her office in Parliament on Monday, July 22. The meeting discussed the recent order issued by the finance ministry to stipulate that journalists, irrespective of their accreditation with the Press Information Bureau, could meet officials at North Block only after securing prior appointment.
At the meeting, the Finance Minister kindly agreed to meet a group of senior finance ministry correspondents along with the Guild’s representatives to discuss the objectives of the finance ministry order, allay the media’s apprehensions and explore solutions.
The Editors Guild of India had issued a statement on July 10, criticising the finance ministry order. Subsequently, the Guild had sought a meeting. The finance minister was gracious and met the Guild’s office-bearers sparing time from her commitments in the Budget session.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the Union finance ministry’s arbitrary decision to deny even government-accredited journalists’ access to its offices in North Block, without prior appointment. The Guild has no dispute with the ministry that journalists should behave with restraint and responsibility while enjoying their access to the finance ministry. But a blanket order is not the answer. Journalists do not go to government offices to enjoy the comforts and hospitality of visitors’ rooms designated for them. They go to perform their challenging job of news gathering. This order is a gag on media freedoms and can even result in a further fall in India’s global press freedom rankings, especially as the contagion can easily spread to other ministries as well. If the finance minister believes that journalists’ access to government offices was causing some inconveniences, the system could be improved in discussions with journalists. The Guild urges the finance minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman, to reconsider her decision and withdraw this decision.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the arrest of Noida-based journalist Prashant Kanojia and the editor and head of a NOIDA-based television channel, Nation Live – Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla- by the Uttar Pradesh government. Mr Kanojia has been accused of uploading a post on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the social media and the Nation Live head and editor have been charged with having aired a video on the UP chief minister. The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws. The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression.
The FIR is based on the journalist sharing on Twitter the video of a woman claiming a “relationship” with the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The television channel had broadcast a video on the same issue. Whatever the accuracy of the woman’s claims, to register a case of criminal defamation against the journalists for sharing it on the social media and airing it on a television channel is a brazen misuse of law. To give the police powers to arrest, provisions of Section 66 of the IT Act have also been added.
As with a recent case in Karnataka that the Guild spoke about, the FIR in this case is also not filed by the person allegedly affected but suo motu by the police. This is a condemnable misuse of law and state power.
The EGI also reiterates its demand that the defamation law should be decriminalised. The misuse of law in this specific case, as in Karnataka earlier, goes way beyond criminal defamation as many IT Act and Indian Penal Code provisions have been invoked in what looks like a motivated and vindictive action.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the First Information Report (FIR) filed by a Bengaluru-based JD(S) leader, Pradeep Gowda, against Kannada newspaper, Vishwavani, and its owner-Editor, Vishweshwar Bhat. It’s an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression.
The FIR alleges that a report in the newspaper on the political turmoil in the family of former Prime Minister and JD (S) chief, H D Deve Gowda, is defamatory. The Guild strongly condemns the use of criminal defamation and brazen misuse of other provisions of the law against the media and demands that the Karnataka government must immediately ensure that the FIR is withdrawn. This case is worse, because the FIR is not even filed by the person allegedly affected but by a party-man claiming to be aggrieved. This is a brazen misuse of law and state power.
The EGI also reiterates its demand that the defamation law should be decriminalised. The misuse of law in this specific case, however, goes way beyond criminal defamation as many Indian Penal Code provisions have been invoked in what looks like a motivated and arbitrary use of power.
The Editors Guild of India condemns several incidents of physical attack on journalists in West Bengal on May 6, during the fifth phase of polling. Journalists belonging to different media organisations including NewsX, ABP Ananda and Zee News were attacked, allegedly by workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Physical attacks against journalists are always reprehensible, but particularly so during elections as they undermine fair media scrutiny of an election.
The Guild urges the Election Commission of India to initiate necessary action against those who indulged in physical violence against journalists and asks the TMC-led West Bengal government to ensure law and order in the state so that journalists are not attacked by political parties and they can perform their professional duties safely.
The Editors Guild of India is deeply distressed over the Meghalaya High Court’s order in a contempt case against The Shillong Times including its Editor and Publisher for reporting the proceedings of the Court. The order, which among other things imposes a fine along with a threat of imprisonment and a ban on the publication, is intimidatory and undermines press freedom. It is ironical that the judiciary which should uphold press freedom has instead issued an order that militates against freedom of expression. The Guild urges the judiciary to exercise its constitutional powers with utmost caution and care so that the role of a free media in a democracy is duly respected.
The Editors Guild of India unequivocally condemns the Attorney General’s comments before the Supreme Court pertaining to documents based on which the media, including The Hindu, had reported on the Rafale deal.
Attorney General K.K.Venugopal on Wednesday sought dismissal of a petition for a review of the apex court’s earlier judgment, giving the government a clean chit, on the ground that the fresh petition had relied on documents that were “stolen” from the defence ministry and that investigations were going on to find out if it was a crime and violative of the Official Secrets Act.
Although the Attorney General later clarified that the investigation and contemplated action would not be initiated against journalists or lawyers who used these documents, the Guild is perturbed over such threats. These will intimidate the media in general and curb its freedom to report and comment on the Rafale deal in particular. Any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as reprehensible as asking the journalists to disclose their sources.
The Guild denounces these threats and urges the government to refrain from initiating any action that might undermine the media’s freedom and independence.
The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the recent tirade of abuse and intimidation against the media and many senior journalists, especially women, in the wake of their reportage and commentary in the run-up to the general elections.
Since much of this is being done through social media, especially Twitter, the Guild urges their respective managements to exercise due caution and a sense of responsibility. Some of what is being allowed to pass clearly amounts to sexual abuse or instigation to violence. Corporations owning these platforms need reminding themselves that they must not allow unlawful behaviour. Business models thriving on hate of any kind are reprehensible.
The Guild believes there is no place for such social media abuse and threats of physical violence in a democracy. Differences of opinion should be respected and resolved through a robust but civil dialogue and debate. It had issued a statement on some of these issues on June 3, 2018 as well.
The Guild urges the government to take necessary steps to bring the abusers to book. Police cybercrime cells should address these complaints on priority. The relevant ministries and regulators should also ensure greater clarity on the laws to ensure accountability on the part of social media platforms. Laws on sexual harassment, intimidation and incitement to violence should be strictly enforced on those using social media and nobody should be allowed to hide behind anonymity.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the arbitrary manner in which several senior journalists of Jammu & Kashmir were denied entry into the stadium in Srinagar to cover the Republic Day function being held there on January 26. It is shocking that many of them were stopped from entering the stadium to perform their professional duty in spite of their possessing entry passes issued by the state government’s Information Department. Equally deplorable is the state government’s earlier decision to deny entry passes for covering the Republic Day function to many other senior journalists.
The Guild believes that this is an unprecedented state-sponsored attack on press freedom and demands an inquiry into how such lapses were allowed to take place. It also seeks an assurance from the government that such reprehensible acts would not be repeated. If necessary, a fool-proof and non-discriminatory system of issuing entry passes to journalists to help them perform their professional duty in high-security areas must be introduced at the earliest.
The Editors Guild of India has noted with concern the words used by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his criticism of ANI Editor-in-Chief Smita Prakash who interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week.
The Guild believes journalists should claim no immunity from healthy and civilised criticism. At the same time, labelling of journalists has emerged as a favourite tactic on the part of the establishment to discredit, delegitimise and intimidate them.
We have seen our political class use this for some time now. In the recent past, top BJP leaders as well as those of AAP have used unambiguously abusive expressions such as “presstitute”, news-traders, “bazaaru” (saleable commodities) or “dalals” (pimps) for journalists.
Combined with ploys such as boycotts, denial of access and lately government accreditation, this adds up to a reprehensible strategy to throttle media freedoms.
This must be reversed. Journalists, we believe, will continue to deal with these with their usual thick skins and not let these tactics intimidate them. The Guild, as an apex, non-partisan institution, however, takes strong exception to this tendency and calls for its halt.
The Editors Guild of India has expressed concern over the recent arrest of a senior editor, Suman Chattopadhyay, by the CBI on reported charges of financial misdemeanour. At the time of his arrest, Mr Chattopadhyay was the editor of Ei Samay, a Bengali newspaper published from Kolkata.
The Guild believes that nobody has immunity from law and it must take its own course, but warns that the views held by Mr Chattopadhyay in discharging his editorial responsibilities should not be held against him or become a factor in the investigation. The Guild wants the government to make sure that its investigative agencies are totally fair and professional in pursuing this investigation and prosecution.
The Guild has also urged the law enforcement authorities to provide Mr Chattopadhyay all the options and facilities that are available to all citizens for seeking due legal recourse.
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the Kerala government’s recent directive that imposes undue restrictions on the media. It urges the state government to revoke it without any delay.
The Guild notes a circular issued by the Kerala State Home Department on November 15, 2018. It is a brazen attempt at restraining the movement of media persons while they are discharging their professional duties.
The circular prevents the media from approaching the Chief Minister, other ministers and higher officials except through the Information and Public Relations department of the state. This is regressive and a direct assault on press freedom as it forbids journalists from seeking comments from ministers and senior officials, imposes curbs in their movement of inside the government secretariat and makes senior government representatives attending public functions out of bounds for them.
The Editors Guild of India has expressed grave concern over the manner in which the Meghalaya High Court has issued a show-cause notice to the editor and publisher of The Shillong Times asking them why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for carrying a report on how the judges of the Court have granted themselves and their families many facilities and benefits.
It is unfortunate that an editor has been summoned by the Meghalaya High Court for what appears to be a factual news report. The Guild believes that the judiciary is one of the pillars of India’s democracy and should stand by the media in helping it discharge its functions in an independent and unbiased manner. Such contempt notices are regrettable and will be seen as judicial intimidation of the media. Judges, who have broad shoulders and are tolerant of criticism, are the need of the hour.
The Guild urges the Meghalaya High Court to take necessary steps that uphold the spirit of unbiased and independent functioning of both the judiciary and the media.
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) had sought the views of its Executive Committee (EC) on what action should be taken against Mr M.J. Akbar, a dormant member at present and one of its past presidents, Mr Tarun Tejpal and Mr Gautam Adhikari in light of the charges of sexual misconduct levelled against them by several women journalists. Mr Akbar’s lawyer‘s response to the Guild’s show-cause notice was also shared with the EC.
A majority of the EC members suggested that the membership of Mr Akbar should be suspended. There was also consensus that Mr Tejpal be suspended too, until the conclusion of his trial and the Guild should write to Mr Adhikari to seek his response.
Office-bearers of the Guild discussed the EC’s comments and took the decision on the matter. It has concurred with the majority view that Mr Akbar should be suspended from the Guild till such time that the court case he has filed is concluded. Using the same logic, the Office-bearers decided that Mr Tejpal too should be suspended from the Guild. For Mr Adhikari, the Office-bearers decided that the Guild will write to him seeking a formal response to the charges against him.
The Editors Guild of India is tracking with great concern fresh, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct against former editor M.J. Akbar. He is a past president of the Guild, and continues to be a member.
In accordance with the decision of the Guild’s last EGM, as ratified at the subsequent meeting of the executive, membership of those editors, whose profession has changed from journalism goes dormant. Mr Akbar’s membership is also therefore dormant.
The Guild executive is discussing further course of action. As provided by the Guild’s Constitution, the executive committee is writing to him to respond to these allegations. His response will then be put up to the executive. A decision on his membership will be taken once this due process is completed.
The Editors Guild of India is saddened to learn of the death of a camera person of Doordarshan and two policemen after they were attacked by Maoist insurgents in the Dantewada district of poll-bound Chhattisgarh. The Guild offers its condolences to the families of the deceased and urges the law enforcement agencies in the state to provide necessary security and protection to the media professionals particularly when they are on election coverage duty. Creating a safe environment for media professionals to discharge their duties will be critical for ensuring freedom of the press.
The Editors Guild of India salutes the courage shown by several women journalists in bringing to light instances of how they were sexually harassed. The resignation of Mr M. J Akbar from union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists’ courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.
We hope that Mr Akbar will also display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants. While Mr Akbar is entitled to all legal instruments available to a citizen to seek vindication, it would be paradoxical for a veteran editor to employ the instrument of criminal defamation. More so for Mr Akbar who happens to be a former president of the Guild.
But if he doesn’t, or in case he files such cases against other women too, the Guild offers its support to them. If any of them were to need legal advice or assistance, the Guild will do the best it can to help and also appeal to eminent lawyers to represent them pro bono.
The Editors Guild of India expresses concern over the search and survey conducted by the Income Tax Department today at the offices of The Quint, a media company, and at the residence of its founder and promoter, Raghav Bahl.
Bahl is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Editors Guild of India and a founder of the Network18 group. In his statement, Bahl has said that “we are a fully tax compliant entity, and will provide all access to all appropriate financial documents.”
The Guild is also perturbed over Bahl’s statement that he had to strongly advise the tax officials that they should not try and pick up or see any other mail or document which is likely to contain very serious and sensitive journalistic material. “If they do that, then we shall seek extremely strong recourse”, Bahl has stated.
While the tax administration is within its rights to make inquiries in compliance with the relevant laws, it should not exercise those powers in a way that could be seen as an intimidation of the government’s critics.
The Guild believes that motivated income-tax searches and surveys will seriously undermine media freedom and the government should desist from such attempts.
The Editors Guild of India has noted with concern and dismay the incidence of alleged sexual harassment and assault on women journalists by their male colleagues. It unequivocally condemns all predatory conduct by such men. It is worse when the perpetrators also happen to be enjoying senior or supervisory positions in the profession.
The Guild also expresses its gratitude and solidarity towards women journalists who have displayed the courage to bring these critical issues in public debate.
The Guild is also committed to ensuring that the legal rights of either the victims or the accused are not violated. A fair, just and safe working environment is essential if press freedoms are to flourish. The newsroom in our profession is a relatively informal, free-spirited and hallowed space. It must be protected.
The Guild extends its total support to all women journalists, who suffered a disadvantage in their careers, physical or mental trauma, as a result of any sexual predation.
It calls upon the media organisations to hold unbiased inquiries into all reported cases. This is the time for all of us to strengthen our internal processes. It includes training of staff and improving awareness, as mandated by the law and even beyond. Anybody found guilty of sexual harassment or assault should be punished as provided in the law.
The newsroom is the most inclusive work space in terms of gender. It is our responsibility as media leaders to ensure that it remains safe and fair for all, especially women.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the decision of the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) to cancel the registration of Daily Desher Katha, a daily newspaper published from Agartala.
According to media reports, the registration of Daily Desher Katha, a mouthpiece of the CPI-M in Tripura, was cancelled on the ground that there was “unauthorised change of ownership”. According to the letter issued by the RNI to Daily Desher Katha, the registration was cancelled on the basis of a report from the sub-divisional magistrate. As a consequence, the daily suspended its publication on October 2 for the first time since its inception about four decades ago.
The Guild is of the view that cancellation of the registration of a publication on the mere finding that there was a mismatch between the information of the editor, printer and publisher is not only a gross overreaction but also a draconian step that throttles freedom of the media.
The Guild demands immediate revocation of the order on the cancellation of the registration of Daily Desher Katha, pending further inquiry into the charges of misinformation. It also demands that a thorough inquiry is instituted by the government to investigate whether the decision was politically motivated.
Editors Guild of India condemns a Myanmar court’s verdict that has sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison after pronouncing them guilty of having breached the country’s Official Secrets Act.
The Guild is opposed to the use of provisions under the Official Secrets Act in any country to throttle the voice of the media. The two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were investigating the death of 10 Rohingya Muslims.
The Guild believes that the arrest and imprisonment of journalists are a big blow to democracy and demands their release from jail at the earliest.
Editors Guild of India is pleased to announce its new Executive Committee. The first meeting of this committee will be convened on 3rd September 2018 in Delhi. This committee will comprise-
Vijay Naik, Consulting Editor (Delhi), Sakal
Shashi Shekhar, Editor-in-Chief, Hindustan Media Ventures Limited
Anant Nath, Editor, The Caravan
Seema Chishti, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express
Prakash Dubey, Group Editor, Dainik Bhaskar
Vijay Joshi, Editor-in-Chief, PTI
Sonia Singh, Editorial Director, NDTV
Patricia Mukim, Editor, Shillong Times.
Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu Chennai.
Raghav Bahl, Editor-in-Chief, TheQuint
R Jagannathan, Editorial Director, Swarajya
Naresh Fernandes, Editor, Scroll.in
Jayant Mammen Mathew, Executive Editor, Malayala Manorama
S Prasannarajan, Editor, Open Magazine
Dilip Mandal, Former Managing Editor, India Today
Ex-Officio Members of the EC (Past Presidents):
Raj Chengappa, Group Editorial Director, India Today
N Ravi, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu.
TN Ninan, Chairman, Business Standard.
Alok Mehta, Chief Editor, Outlook.
Rajdeep Sardesai, Consulting Editor, TV Today Network.
Mammen Mathew, Chief Editor, Malayala Manorama.
HK Dua, former Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune.
Hari Jaisingh, former Editor, The Tribune.
Ramoji Rao, Chairman, Eanadu, and ETV.
DN Bezboruah, Former Editor, Sentinel.
KN Harikumar, Former Editor, Prajawani
Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo, Editor-in-Chief, Greater Kashmir.
Kavita Devi, Digital head, Khabhar Lahariya
The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over a Patna High Court order restraining the media from reporting on the investigation into the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case. A verbal order issued by the division bench of Chief Justice Mukesh R Shah and Justice Dr Ravi Ranjan on August 23 said that till the investigation into the shelter case was completed, all the print and electronic media were restrained from reporting anything with respect to the case, more particularly, with respect to the investigation already undertaken and/or which was likely to take place as it could seriously hamper the investigation of the case.
The Guild is distressed to note that the court, instead of protecting media freedom, has issued an order that has effectively curbed it. It condemns such orders as it believes that such restrictions on reporting on investigations into a matter of public importance are counterproductive. The Guild decries the recent growing trend of courts issuing such restraint orders on the media that undermine one of the pillars of democracy.
It also appeals to the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of India and the Patna High Court to review the restraint order and uphold the principles of a free media and democracy.
The Editors Guild of India offers its condolences on the death of Kuldip Nayar, one of the doyens of Indian journalism and a founder member of the Guild. As the president of the Guild, he provided it with energetic and visionary leadership.
Known to be a reporter’s editor, Kuldip Nayar held many leadership positions in news organisations including The Statesman and The Indian Express, where he provided both edge and depth to its formidable team of reporters and editors. His many legendary news scoops will continue to inspire generations of young journalists for their sharpness, credibility, speed and standards of due diligence. An exemplar, Kuldip Nayar fought through his writings the oppressive Emergency regime that had imposed curbs on media freedom and as a result of which he was also arrested.
A prolific writer and an author of many books, Kuldip Nayar was also a human rights activist and had been appointed India’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and later nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
The Guild will also soon consider a proposal to honour Kuldip Nayar’s memory and contributions to journalism.
 The Editors Guild of India condemns the manner in which the right to practise free and independent journalism is seen to be undermined by a combination of forces – some media owners’ inability to withstand political covert or overt pressures from the political establishment and frequent instances of blocking or interference in the transmission of television content that is seen to be critical of the government.
The past few days have seen senior journalists of at least two electronic media channels come out in the open to assert that their employers attempted to either tailor or tone down their content to make it less critical of the government, leaving them no choice other than resigning. At least one such instance has been reported formally in writing to the Guild. These instances are disconcerting.
The Guild decries all attempts on the part of the government to interfere in the free and independent functioning of journalists, either put under pressure directly, or through the proprietors. It also reminds media owners that institutional strength and respect is directly linked to editorial independence and undermining the former can result in curtailing the latter. It urges them to not cow down to political pressure being brought upon them by the government or any other forces. Owners and journalists have an equally shared interest in press freedoms and in resisting pressures.
Even more worrying are the recent instances where signals of television programmes critical of the government have seemingly been blocked or disrupted in a manner almost Orwellian. One TV channel has also shared with the Guild screen-shots and details indicating such interference. Such attempts strike at the root of media freedom and indeed the foundations of our democracy. These undermine the right to be informed and to hold the establishment accountable. This seems a brazen attempt to punish “unfriendly” news channels and silence inconvenient voices.
The Guild demands that the government take note of these instances of disruptions in television programme signals, investigate and explain how and under what circumstances these egregious violations are taking place. Suitable action must be taken against those who were responsible for such nefarious activities aimed at throttling media freedom. It must also assure the nation that either directly or through any proxies or agencies it isn’t involved in this activity. And if it isn’t, these saboteurs must be brought to book. Freedom of airwaves cannot be tampered with.
 The Guild also decries the tendency on the part of the government, and the political class in general, to use selective denial of journalistic access as a weapon. This has become worse when there are few opportunities to ask questions to those in public life or in official positions on public platforms like press conferences, which is a legitimate democratic right of journalists on behalf of all citizens. Denying this right and shunning journalists critical of you are unhealthy practices in a democracy. Unfortunately, it can also lead to one-sided coverage. This unhealthy and unfair practice must be avoided.
 In a related issue, the Guild decries the “cease and desist” notice served by a large corporate group on some newspapers in an effort to block the coverage of an important Defence deal. The company should withdraw this notice. And if it doesn’t, it should be resisted and. If needed, we hope the courts will weigh in for the right of journalists to investigate and raise questions.
 The Editors Guild of India is also pained and agitated to learn of the detention of Shahidul Alam, eminent photographer and educator, in Dhaka under the provisions of the Information and Communication Technology Act of Bangladesh. The Guild understands that Mr Alam’s detention is arbitrary and unreasonable. Highlighting the peaceful protests by school children and young people in Dhaka against the malpractices in the transport sector, resulting in deaths, is not a crime. The Guild stands behind Mr Alam and demands his immediate and unconditional release from detention.
The Editors Guild of India welcomes the specific provisions for journalists in the draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 as they broadly allow media professionals to use sensitive as well as non-sensitive personal data while discharging their duties.
By placing data gathered for ‘journalistic purposes’ in the exempt list under the proposed law, the Committee headed by Justice B N Srikrishna has also allowed journalists to collect, review and preserve personal data for use in news reports without seeking the consent of individuals. However, the Srikrishna draft says journalists will have to adhere to the code of ethics prescribed by the Press Council of India or “any media self-regulatory organisation.” The Guild’s Code of Ethics (https://editorsguild.in/code-of-practice/) provides for broad norms. It will also be amended soon for greater clarity.
The Guild also endorses the Srikrishna Committee’s suggestion that the Press Council of India and other media watchdogs should incorporate provisions for data privacy in their code of ethics so that the exemption provided to journalists does not lead to undue violation of the data protection rights of individuals.
The attention of the Editors Guild of India has been drawn to the recent case of the Kollam Police in Kerala registering an FIR against Mr. Venu Balakrishnan, Deputy Editor and Anchor of Mathrubhumi News television channel. This was following a complaint filed by local leaders of DYFI, the youth wing of the ruling CPI (M) under Sec. 153 A of IPC for initiating a discussion on the channel on an incident involving the torture of a young Muslim by the Police and the ruckus in the State Assembly following Police atrocities.
The Guild understands that what Mr Balakrishnan said as an anchor of the show has been taken out of context and made the basis for lodging the FIR. The Guild considers the contemplated Police action against him, based on the FIR, to be reprehensible and an attack on the freedom of the press. The Left-ruled state of Kerala must take note of this unfortunate incident, engineered as it is by a group affiliated to the ruling party, and ensure that the Police is restrained from taking any action that undermines the freedom of the press and the justice delivery system.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the despicable manner in which a barely veiled threat of violence has been issued against journalists by Mr. Lal Singh, an MLA belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party and a former minister in the Jammu and Kashmir government. Far from condemning the recent assassination of the senior journalist, Shujaat Bhukhari, Mr. Singh in a media briefing warned all journalists in Jammu and Kashmir to “draw a line” unless they wished to be targeted like the slain editor of Rising Kashmir. Such a warning not only betrays Mr. Singh’s deep disregard for the role of the Free Press in a democracy, it also amounts to encouraging physical attacks against journalists in the sensitive state and elsewhere in the country. The Guild demands that the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir should take note of this incitement to violence against journalists and take necessary action against Mr. Singh. The Guild also demands that the BJP should reprimand Mr. Singh, take suitable disciplinary action and ask him to retract the offending statement after offering an apology. The Guild’s attention has also been drawn to the recent instances of how several television channels in Tamil Nadu have been arbitrarily taken off the air for periods ranging between a couple of hours and a few days.The Guild is appalled that an FIR has been registered by the Tamil Nadu police against a reporter and the management of Puthiya Thalaimurai, a Tamil news channel. A case has been slapped under Section 153 A of the IPC (promoting enmity between groups) and other sections of the law on completely unjustifiable grounds. All that the news channel did was to host a roundtable discussion on the protests in Tamil Nadu in which an invited panel aired its views before an audience. The FIR was slapped even before the programme was aired. In the absence of a convincing explanation, this seems a shocking attempt to muzzle dissenting views and intimidate the media.
Other affected television channels have also complained that such blackouts happen after they telecast programmes that were not liked by the Tamil Nadu government, which controls the television channel content distribution agency, Arasu Cable.
While the Tamil Nadu government has assured the media that it has no plans to black out television channels, the dangers to a free and unhindered distribution of television content will continue to lurk as long as the state government controls a channel distribution company accounting for a market share of over 60 percent. This also has the dangerous potential of undermining the functioning of a free media.
The Guild urges the Tamil Nadu government to adhere to the recommendations of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India that bar a government from owning a television channel distribution company. It also urges the government to take necessary steps to ensure that proper regulation is enforced to ensure no unfair or uncompetitive steps are taken by television channel distribution companies.
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the dastardly attack on Srinagar-based senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari on Thursday evening that later led to his death. Mr Bukhari was a voice of moderation and a courageous, big-hearted editor who mentored a large cadre of young journalists from Kashmir. The Guild calls upon the government of Jammu and Kashmir to take urgent steps to bring to book the culprits and ensure safety and security for the media in the state. An attack on a journalist challenges the very foundations of a free press and vibrant democracy and more so in a state like Jammu and Kashmir that is going through militancy. The Guild also calls upon the state and central government to enhance security for all journalists in Jammu and Kashmir. Recent weeks have also seen threats of violence against many journalists in different parts of the country. The killing of Mr Bukhari is a new low in a rapidly deteriorating environment for media practitioners in Kashmir, in particular, and in the country in general. The Guild calls upon the Centre to take note of the developments and take necessary steps to ensure a situation where the media can discharge its duties without any fear of violence. The state and central governments must enhance security for all journalists in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Editors Guild of India has unequivocally condemned the threats of physical violence and viciously abusive online and social media attack against several journalists recently.
Noting that the spirit of democracy can only be kept alive through a free, fair and independent media, the Guild has reiterated that any attempt to physically threaten, or verbally abuse and humiliate those who offer commentary, reportage or analysis can seriously undermine the functioning of our democracy.
Any difference of opinion should be challenged with another set of views and not by a threat of physical violence, or online calumny, it has noted in a statement.
The Guild urges the government at the Centre and in the states to show a much greater sense of urgency to provide protection to the journalists threatened with physical violence and bring to book those, who are issuing such threats. The government must initiate quick action on complaints by these victims and bring the guilty to book. There is no room for laxity here.
Editors Guild of India expresses concern over ‘Cobrapost’ sting, urges media organisations to explain position to readers.
The Editors Guild of India has expressed concern over the claims made by website ‘Cobrapost’ through a ‘sting operation’ conducted on several prominent media organisations.
While the Guild cannot ascertain the veracity of these tapes, it urges the media organisations, whose representatives were purportedly caught engaged in inappropriate conversations, to explain their conduct to their readers and the public at large. They must squarely address the charge that some media organisations seem inclined to sell editorial content for revenue.
The Guild believes that the media is under attack from different quarters in an environment that requires journalists to be extraordinarily vigilant and conscious of the need to adhere to the highest standards of free and fair journalism.
The managements and proprietors should recognise the complex challenges they and their journalists face and respond to them in a way that no one can cast aspersions on their credibility and fairness. Editorial freedoms must be fully respected. Paid news, even a suggestion of it, is ruinous for the media’s image.
There can be no compromise on maintaining the wall between editorial and advertising. All sponsored and advertorial content must be clearly identified and demarcated.
The Guild, would also like to draw attention to the Code of Practice for Journalists adopted by it in 2002 and subsequently revised in 2007.
Clause 19 of the Code of Practice says: “Information should not be obtained through the use of clandestine listening and photographing devices or by intercepting private telephone conversation. Or through misrepresentation or subterfuge (popularly described as sting operations) except when justified only in public interest, and when information cannot be obtained by any other means.”
The Guild stands by these guidelines outlined in the Code of Practice for Journalists. If at all stings are to be carried out, these must be justified as per these norms, following fundamental journalistic principles of full disclosure and fairness.