Indian media bodies have condemned the filing of sedition charges against six senior journalists and editors for their reporting on the farmers’ tractor parade in New Delhi on Republic Day, saying the situation in the country is akin to an undeclared emergency.
At a protest meeting held in New Delhi, a number of media bodies including the Press Club of India, Editors Guild of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and Indian Journalists Union (IJU) condemned the practice of filing sedition charges against journalists.
Senior journalist and president of the Press Club of India Anand Sahay said the current Modi govt does not care for the notion of democracy as the smallest voice of criticism may land people in jail.
He said, “Today the atmosphere is such, it’s so poisonous, so toxic that anyone who wants to go to the court perhaps is a fool.
You know what the result is going to be. Even during the emergency, rules against journalists were not so harsh”. DUJ president S K Pande said, “What is happening today is a situation which is an undeclared emergency.
People have seen what the emergency was, we are heading for something worse, where if you raise the voice against the powers that are you will be targeted whether through sedition, or filing of FIRs so that you lose desire to fight or feel compelled to call it a day. From journalists, to farmers, to trade unionists, to artists, to writers and intellectuals all of them are facing a lockdown of the mouth.”
Editors Guild president Seema Mustafa said the govt’s action against journalists is meant to intimidate and harass them.
S N Sinha of IJU recalled a recent incident where journalists from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh were charged for reporting on a yoga function.
He said that journalists were “society’s watchdogs, not the government’s lap dogs”.
Rajdeep Sardesai, who is one of the charged journalists, said, “Whether you are journalist in Manipur or Kashmir, or in a Congress-ruled state or a BJP-ruled state, on sedition there should be complete unanimity among every journalist.
The time has come for all of us to protest in one voice that sedition is an unacceptable charge against journalists. Let us show some solidarity on this issue, we can continue to have disagreement on other issues,” he added.
On Thursday, the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Police filed FIR for sedition against journalists Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, Anant Nath, Vinod K Jose for the reporting on Jan 26.—KMS