Withdraw FIRs against EGI, Mumbai press club urges Manipur govt

Withdraw FIRs against EGI, Mumbai press club urges Manipur govt

The Mumbai Press Club on September 5 demanded the Manipur government to withdraw FIRs against the president of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) Seema Mustafa and three members of the organization’s ‘fact-finding team.

The ‘fact-finding team had probed the one-sided media coverage of the ethnic violence.

The three-member EGI fam — Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, and Bharat Bhushan – all them senior and credible editor-journalists – had carried out a probe from 7th to 10th August on the role of the local media in the ongoing Meitei – Kuki ethnic clashes and had come to some reasoned conclusions.

The report also put forward a series of recommendations for the media to play a better, balanced role in the situation.

”Instead of engaging with the editors, Chief Minister Biren Singh, at a press conference on Monday, accused the editors of “provoking clashes” and directed the state police to register FIRs and begin criminal action against the members of the Editors Guild.

This is not only a violation of the freedom of expression and speech, guaranteed as fundamental rights under our Constitution, but a supreme example of the Manipur Government’s partisan and heavy-handed behaviour we have seen since May 2023,” the Mumbai Press Club said in an official statement.

It further demanded that the Manipur government immediately stop police action against the four journalists and withdraw the FIRs registered against them.

”The EGI report has pointed to several violations of press freedom, a clampdown on citizens’ rights to free communication, and fake news peddled by the government.

The report also excluded some media outlets demonizing the minority Kuki-Zo tribal community. The report, among other things, had criticized the continuous ban on the internet since May of this year,” it added.

The Mumbai Press Club further said that Chief Minister N Biren Singh may not agree with the conclusions, but he has no right to intimidate and threaten members of an apex body of editors with criminal action and jail.

”In his press conference on Monday, the Manipur CM criticized the editor’s team for “not understanding the complexity of the crisis and the background and history of the state.” So far, so good. He has the right to criticize the conclusions of the fact-finding team.

But he has no right, to suppress the right of the editors to investigate and derive conclusions about the government’s role.

The fact that the ethnic divide has become worse in the last few months, and even after the death of over 200 persons in the state, the violence continues speaks volumes about the performance of the Biren Singh government,” it alleged.

”We appeal to the Manipur government to stop victimizing news persons and ensure that the state’s tenets of press freedom are respected,” the Mumbai Press Club urged.

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