The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Thursday said it was “deeply perturbed” over the government’s statement in Supreme Court earlier this week, and questioned the Centre's attempt in the apex court to blame the media for the mass exodus of migrants from cities amid the coronavirus crisis.
In the PIL before the apex court, the Centre sought a direction from the court which said: “No electronic/print media /web portal or social media shall print/publish or telecast anything without first ascertaining the true factual position from the separate mechanism provided by the central government.”
The coronavirus-enforced lockdown has triggered a mass exodus of migrant agriculture labourers, industrial workers, and unorganised sector employees from their workplaces to hometowns amid a 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat the 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”.
However, the apex court noted that it did not want to “interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic”, but directed the media to refer to and publish the official version about the developments. The court said it expected the media (print, electronic or social) to “maintain a strong sense of responsibility and ensure that unverified news capable of causing panic is not disseminated”.
In a statement published on Twitter, the Editors Guild of India stated that it finds the advice of the apex court “gratuitous and unnecessary.”
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement pic.twitter.com/eCYKoY73BO
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) April 2, 2020
“Blaming the media at the juncture can only undermine the current work being done by it under trying circumstances. Such changes can also obstruct the process of dissemination of news during an unprecedented crisis facing the country,” the statement said.
The EGI's statement also highlighted the FIR filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police against the news publishing website The Wire's Editor-in-Chief Siddharth Varadarajan and recognised the police action at this state “an overreaction and act of intimidation.”
The Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday had booked the senior journalist over comments on Twitter claiming that the day Tablighi Jamaat held its event in Delhi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had insisted that a Ram Navami fair will take place as usual.
PEN Delhi, also took note of the FIR and said that "the intimidation of Vidya Krishnan, Siddharth Varadarajan and others must stop." It further noted that "Fighting a pandemic requires a free media not just to inform the people likely to be affected by it but also to act as a watchdog for them."
"Fighting a pandemic requires a free media not just to inform the people likely to be affected by it but also to act as a watchdog for them."@pendelhi's statement on the importance of press freedom in India during #COVID19:https://t.co/UxiffptkKI pic.twitter.com/YtjYg3vvsb
— PEN International (@pen_int) April 2, 2020
Updated Date: Apr 03, 2020 07:54:06 IST