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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 25

In Defence Of Freedom Of The Press

Editors Guild of India Condemns Attacks on Editors and Journalists

Sunday 8 June 2008

Of late freedom of the press is under attack in different parts of the country. On June 1, the Ahmedabad Police filed a complaint against Bharat Desai, the
[. . .] the newspaper against City Police Commissioner O.P. Mathur’s alleged links with a mafia don. And on June 5 there was an attack by hoodlums allegedly associated with a political organisation now sharing power in Maharashtra on the Thane residence of Kumar Ketkar, the editor of Lok Satta and a prominent journalist, for having written an editorial not to their liking.

In view of these incidents and the threat these pose to our democratic structure, the Editors Guild of India has come out in strong condemnation of these incidents. The Guild was set up after the infamous Emergency of 1975-77 and is pledged to protect, preserve, defend and promote freedom of the press. We are carrying below the Guild’s statements on the incidents issued on behalf of the organisation’s Secretary-General K.S. Sachidananda Murthy.

The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the draconian and intolerant action of the Ahmedabad Police which has made charges of sedition against The Times of India, its resident editor and two journalists.

The action of the City Police Commissioner, O.P. Mathur, smacks of vindictiveness as the newspaper had carried articles criticising the choice of Mathur as the Police Commissioner. Sedition is a charge which was slapped on the Indian media by the colonial rulers during the freedom struggle. Abuse of the sedition provision against the media negates the freedoms granted to the citizens by the Constitution. The Guild expects the Government of Gujarat to ensure that the persecution of The Times of India and its journalists is stopped forthwith and take action under law for misusing the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

[Issued on June 2, 2008]

THE Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the violent attack on the residence of Kumar Ketkar, Editor of Lok Satta, and a member of the Guild’s Executive Committee, at Thane today. Mr Ketkar was targeted by an unlawful mob provoked by powerful personalities in Maharashtra. They were intolerant of an independent editorial penned by Mr Ketkar.

In a democracy, every editor and journalist has the unfettered right to express his/her views on public issues. Such independent views need not necessarily meet the approval of dominant groups and personalities in government and politics; and they cannot attack the editor for expressing such views. The Guild expects stringent action against those who vandalised the residence of Mr Ketkar. The Maharashtra Government should ensure that no one, however powerful they might be, would threaten the freedom of the press.

[Issued on June 5, 2008]

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