On Friday, the Editors Guild of India condemned the registration of FIRs against alleged journalists for sharing fake news during the Republic Day violence in Delhi. The intention was to cause unrest and riots, according to the FIR.
Taking to Twitter, the self-proclaimed organisation representing the ‘editors’ expressed its concern over the registration of FIR against the current and former office-bearers of the guild. In a statement issued on Friday, the Editors’ Guild said ‘journalists’ were specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the rioters on their personal social media handles as well as those of their publications.
Six ‘journalists’, including India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Congress mouthpiece National Herald’s Zafar Agha, far-left rag Caravan’s Ananth Nath, Vinod Jose, and Paresh Nath, were booked by the Noida Police Thursday for sedition for trying to incite violence by sharing misinformation.
All of them have been booked for spreading the fake news that one protestor was shot dead by Delhi Police during the tractor rally on Republic Day, who had actually died due to an accident.
Rajdeep Sardesai, arguable the country’s most notorious fake news peddler, had tweeted the fake news on Twitter and later had repeated the same on India Today, claiming that bullet injury was seen on the head of the deceased. The far-left outlet – Caravan had also spread the fake news, claiming that “An eyewitness told The Caravan that he saw the police firing from behind the grills of the Andhra Education Society.” They had also reported that eyewitnesses said they saw police personnel fleeing from the spot after Navneet was shot.
However, the post mortem details had proved the rioter died during the tractor rally succumbing to the antemortem injuries he received after his tractor turned turtle as seen in the incident’s viral video, and there was no bullet injury on his body.
Accused instigated large-scale riot and communal violence, said FIR
Following that, the Uttar Pradesh police had filed an FIR saying that the accused persons are responsible for the riots on Republic Day, as it was instigated by their digital media posts. It said that despite the large scale attack on the police causing injuries to hundreds of policemen, the accused persons circulated fake news in a coordinated and well-planned manner that police have shot a person dead.
“It was done deliberately so that it cases a large-scale riot and communal violence among various communities”, the FIR alleged.
The UP police said that the accused persons knowingly circulated fake news for their political benefits and to instigate the protestors for violence. “Due to their tweets, the protestors reached the Red Fort and hoisted religious and other flags in the place of national flag”, the FIR noted.
Editors’ Guild bats for fake news peddlers, says it is journalistic norms
As Uttar Pradesh police registered an FIR against the fake news peddlers, the Editors Guild’ of India, dominated by the ‘alleged’ journalists and far-left propagandists have now jumped to rescue the accused by demanding the withdrawal of the FIR filed against the six ‘journalists’.
The Editors’ Guild, in its statement, claimed that the day of the incident was the ‘day of the protest and high action’ and several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police and ‘therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged’.
In an effort to whitewash the crimes of alleged ‘journalists’, the Editors’ Guild normalised the menace of fake news by claiming that the act of the six journalists was ‘in line with established norms of journalistic practice’.
“On a day thick with information, the EGI finds these FIRs, filed in different states, as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. That the FIRs have been booked under as many as ten different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony, and insulting religious beliefs, is further disturbing,” the statement read.
Essentially, the Editors’ Guild demanded that senior journalists be given the right to peddle fake news even if it caused incitement to violence or caused a riot. The Editors’ Guild of India, in its attempt to defend fake news peddlers, has set a dangerous precedent.