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Editors Guild says deeply perturbed at govt move against media, calls SC advice ‘gratuitous’

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New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India Thursday said it was “deeply perturbed” over the government’s statement in Supreme Court this week, in which it blamed the media for the mass exodus of migrants from cities amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Centre on Tuesday had told the Supreme Court that “fake and misleading news and social media” had led to the mass movement of migrants and daily wage workers.

The past week saw hundreds leave the capital, crowding buses arranged by the UP government and, in many cases, walking the 300-400 km to their villages. News reports at the time mentioned their suffering, fear and loss of income brought on by the nationwide lockdown imposed to limit the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

In its order, the Supreme Court told the media to “publish the official version” of developments, but clarified it didn’t wish to “interfere with the free discussion about the 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,” a statement released Thursday night said.

“No democracy anywhere in the world is fighting the pandemic by gagging its media,” the guild statement added.

On FIR against TheWire

The Guild also addressed the issue of an FIR filed against the editor-in-chief of the news website The Wire, calling it “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 stated.

“The Guild believes for sure that the media must be responsible, free and fair. But such interference can only undermine those goals,” it added.

The UP Police Wednesday filed an FIR against The Wire under Sections 188 and 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code, which pertain to disobedience of an order issued by a public servant and statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.

The Wire claimed the FIR did not mention the date or headline of the cited article deemed in violation of state regulations


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