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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 25 & 26 , June 17 & June 24, 2023

Recent incidents of intimidation & harassment of journalists by political leaders | Statement by EGI

Saturday 17 June 2023


The Editor’s Guild of India


June 13, 2023

The Editors Guild of India notes with concern recent incidents of intimidation and harassment of journalists by political leaders while doing their job. This trigger happy approach to browbeat and harass reporters and news camera persons undermine the freedom of the press.

On June 9, Union Minister Smriti Irani, while on a visit to her constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, threatened and intimidated a journalist. The video of this incident has been widely shared, where Ms. Irani, in response to some persistent questioning by a reporter, is seen telling that she would “call up the owner of the paper [Dainik Bhaskar]” and “tell them no journalist has the right to insult the people.” The minister’s threat to call newspaper owners and couch journalistic questioning as an affront to the people, was a clear intimidatory tactic. Dainik Bhaskar has subsequently claimed that the journalist was not associated with it. However, another journalist associated with the media house who was at the spot as well has been relieved of his duties.

The Guild is deeply disturbed by the intimidatory conduct of the Union Minister and would like to remind Ms. Irani that threats to journalists impinge directly on press freedom. The Guild also reiterates that it is important for media houses not to succumb to political pressure and urges Dainik Bhaskar to reinstate the journalist.

In a separate incident, on June 10, a senior woman journalist in Kerala was named as an accused in a First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the state police in response to a complaint filed by the Student Federation of India (SFI), the student arm of the ruling CPI(M) party. The journalist is an employee of Asianet News and was on an assignment when she came to know of certain facts concerning SFI leader P.M. Arsho, and reported the same after verification in a live telecast. The SFI leader accused her of being part of a ‘conspiracy’ to defame him and filed a case against her, along with a few others. The Kerala police included her name in the FIR and has subsequently interrogated her.

It is a matter of deep concern that mere reportage on political leaders can invite an FIR and questioning by the police. The Guild urges the CPI(M) government in Kerala to withdraw the case against the journalist with immediate effect.

EGI once again underlines its repeated requests to all political parties to desist from harassing and intimidating working journalists and media houses. The reporters are on the ground to ask questions and threats of action by political leaders and state law enforcement agencies is against democratic principles. Further, media houses have the fundamental duty of protecting the journalists working with them, reporters and stringers alike, and should not cow down to any kind of political browbeating.

Thanks and regards,

Seema Mustafa, President
Anant Nath, General Secretary
Shriram Pawar, Treasurer

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