The Editors Guild yesterday hit out at the Uttar Pradesh Police for registering an FIR against Scroll.in Executive Editor Supriya Sharma on the basis of a complaint filed by a Dalit woman. The Guild said that it was an “overreaction” which will “seriously undermine freedom of the media”. The FIR was registered by Varanasi Police under sections of the SC/ST Act and under defamation laws.
The Editors Guild said, “The use of criminal provisions of the law against journalists has now become an unhealthy and despicable trend that has no place in a vibrant democracy. It needs to be resisted as well as eliminated.” “The Guild respects all laws of the land as also the right of Mala Devi to defend herself against any acts of injustice. But it also finds the flagrant misuse of such laws unjustifiable and reprehensible,” it added.
The statement by Editors Guild concluded, “Worse, the increasing frequency of such misuse of laws by the authority is tantamount to shooting the messenger and destroying a key pillar of India’s democracy.”
It is a familiar cry of journalists when they are treated as ordinary citizens. When the police proceeds as per law against one of their own, they cry victimhood and persecution. In this particular instance, the complainant Mala Devi alleged that her story was misreported by the journalist and presented as if she (Mala Devi) was facing extreme poverty and hunger, when that was actually not the case. The report claimed that she was facing extreme hunger during the lockdown in a village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, but the woman has completely denied that report and accordingly filed case against the journalist for spreading lies about her.
Another reason why Editors Guild could be seriously distressed is the fact that the stringent SC/ST Act has been evoked against Supriya Sharma. However, it is one law that all liberals resolutely swear by. Scroll.in, itself, had published articles claiming that the dilution of the Act by the Supreme Court harms the cause of the Dalit community.
Scroll.in had claimed that “In worrying about the liberty of the privileged, the judges may have forgotten that caste is anti-liberty.” But when the same law is applied to one of their own, Editors Guild suddenly feels that proceeding as per law is unjustifiable. Thus, it is quite clear that they want such laws only to be applied to the masses, never to them.
For their part, Scroll.in has decided to stand by their journalist and what she had reported. They have claimed that while speaking to them, Mala Devi had stated that she is a domestic worker and is currently struggling for food. However, the portal has not shared any audio or video evidence of the woman’s statement.
On the other hand, Mala Devi has told in her FIR that she is facing no problem during the lockdown, and she has food for her and her family to eat. She also said that she is working as a Safai Karmachari in the Municipal corporation, and not a domestic worker as claimed by the Scroll report.
But instead of slamming Scroll.in for publishing fake report about a Dalit woman, The Editors Guild chose to take their side, and in the process claimed that the Dalit woman is lying in her FIR against the journalist.
It is important to note that Scroll.in has spread numerous fake news in the past. Most recently, they had spread fake news regarding the Food Corporation of India. While Editors Guild appears to be always willing to defend journalists and slam the Police even when they are proceeding as per law, it appears that they do not have much to say when journalists engage in flagrant malpractices.