FIR Against Editors’ Guild of India: Editors’ Guild of India acknowledged the caption error, stating, “We regret the error that crept in at the photo editing stage.
New Delhi, 04 September (City Times):FIR Against Editors’ Guild of India: The Manipur police has taken legal action against a fact-finding team from the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI) that visited Manipur and released a report concerning media coverage of the ethnic conflict in the region. Surprisingly, the FIR filed invokes Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, a section that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015.
Three Key Points Why FIR is Lodged Against Editors’ Guild of India:
- FIR Against Editors’ Guild: The police in Manipur have lodged a complaint against members of the Editors’ Guild of India. This happened because they had published a report about the way the news covered a conflict in Manipur.
- Conflict and Media Report: The Editors’ Guild said that during the conflict in Manipur, the news was not fair. They said that the media there acted like it was only favoring one group.
- Issues and Legal Problems: The complaint is about a wrong caption on a photo in the report. The Editors’ Guild admitted this mistake and corrected it. This situation brings up worries about using old laws and the difficulties of doing research in a place with a lot of problems like Manipur.
Supreme Court’s Repeated Warnings Ignored
Despite several warnings from the Supreme Court to halt the use of this now-defunct section, some police departments continue to invoke it. Section 66A once allowed imprisonment for up to three years and imposed fines on individuals posting “offensive” content online.
Multiple Charges and Misuse of Laws
In addition to the non-existent Section 66A, the police have also applied sections of the Indian Penal Code related to promoting enmity between groups, damaging or defiling a place of worship, deliberately hurting religious sentiments, and making statements that lead to public mischief. Furthermore, Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which pertains to criminal misconduct by a public servant, was used.
State Government’s Response
Manipur’s Chief Minister, N. Biren Singh, mentioned, “The state administration has submitted a complaint against the Editors’ Guild team, alleging their efforts to incite further tensions within Manipur. The FIR mentions the report’s authors, Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor, along with Seema Mustafa, the President of the Editors Guild of India.
Complaint and Photo Caption
The FIR is based on a complaint filed by Ngangom Sarat, described as a “social worker” residing in Imphal West. The complaint specifically mentions a photo caption in the report, which erroneously stated that smoke was rising from a Kuki home when it was actually the residence of a forest official. Based on this, the complainant concluded that the entire report was false and “sponsored by Kuki militants.” The Editors’ Guild acknowledged the caption error, stating, “We regret the error that crept in at the photo editing stage.”
Editors’ Guild Report Criticized Media Coverage
The Editors’ Guild report had criticized media coverage coming out of Manipur during the ethnic conflict, alleging that it was often one-sided. The report noted that local journalists, operating in difficult circumstances, couldn’t cross-check or monitor their reports with local authorities, police, or security forces. Consequently, the Manipur media, especially the Meitei media, had adopted a collective approach, consulting with each other and agreeing on a common narrative to avoid further inflaming the already tense situation.
Escalation of Violence in Various Districts
Reports of violence, arson, and mayhem have emerged from various districts in Manipur, including Churachandpur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur, Tengnoupal, and Kangpokpi. The situation has become so dire that the Manipur government authorized district magistrates to issue shoot-at-sight orders, a severe measure.
Roots of the Conflict
The violence began on May 3 after the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) held a solidarity march opposing a Manipur High Court order. This order had urged the Manipur State government to recommend including the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (STs) list.
As the violence escalated on May 4, the central government invoked Article 355 of the Constitution, granting it the authority to intervene in situations of internal disturbances. This prompted the deployment of security forces into the state.
Human Cost and Displacement
The conflict has taken a severe toll, with over a dozen people reported killed, hundreds wounded, and over 9,000 people from various communities displaced. Buildings, homes, and property have been destroyed, adding to the crisis.
Ongoing Tensions and Controversy
Despite efforts to restore order, tensions persist, and debates about the conflict’s underlying causes continue. These causes include land disputes, forest policies, and the issue of protected forest areas. The central and state governments are working to address these complex challenges and restore peace to Manipur.