The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has expressed its shock over the Tripura Police’s decision to book 102 people, including journalists, under the coercive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for reporting and writing on the recent anti-Muslim violence in the state.
“The Guild is of the opinion that this is an attempt by the state government to deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence, as well as to take action against the perpetrators of this,” the EGI said in a statement released on Sunday.
The state police have sent notices to various social media platforms under UAPA. This move comes a few days after the police had filed UAPA charges against some Delhi based lawyers – Mukesh Kumar and Ansar Indori – who had visited Tripura as part of an independent fact-finding team.
One of the journalists, Shyam Meera Singh, has alleged that he has been booked under UAPA for merely tweeting “Tripura is burning”.
Reacting to the same, the EGI said, “This is an extremely disturbing trend where such a harsh law, wherein the processes of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence.”
It demanded that the state government conduct an objective and fair investigation into the circumstances of the violence instead of penalising journalists and civil society activists.
In its statement, the EGI reiterated its earlier demand to the Supreme Court of India, to take cognizance of the manner in which such laws are unjustifiably used against freedom of speech, and to issue stringent guidelines on charging journalists under them, so that these laws don’t become an easy tool for suppressing press freedom.