New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India said on Wednesday reports of police action against journalists across the country were “deeply disturbing” and condemned the “growing pattern of misuse of criminal laws”.
The Guild cited two instances, one of a sedition case being slapped on Dhaval Patel, the editor of a Gujarati news portal for carrying a news report of a likely change at the top in the Gujarat government. The second instance the Guild cited was of Indian Express reporter Mahender Singh Manral being summoned by the Delhi Police to participate in an inquiry into the Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad’s case.
The government and the police must recognise that the media is an integral part of the governance structure in any democracy,” the Guild said in a statement.
“The Guild condemns these actions and asks the state and central governments to desist from misusing the law to threaten the free press,” it added.
Patel was charged with sedition and for spreading false panic. “This is a misuse of special laws, besides sedition and the Indian Penal Code,” the Guild said. In the case of Manral, the Guild said this was an instance of “egregious and high-handed action” from Delhi Police.
“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 Indian Penal Code with punishment of a prison term and fine,” it said, adding that this action appears to be a “little more than a fishing expedition to try and extract the journalist’s source” and, thus, warn other reporters.
Press Club of India condemned Delhi Police’s a tion. “We stand in solidarity with our journalist colleague and urge a consolidation of support from the media and the general public on this vital issue,” it said.