The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has condemned the Tripura Police’s action of booking 102 people, including journalists, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and said that the government cannot use such stringent laws to suppress reporting on communal violence incidents.
The Guild, in a statement, said that it was deeply shocked at the police’s action against journalists and said that it was an attempt by the Tripura government to “deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence.”
“The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked by the Tripura Police’s action of booking 102 people, including journalists, under the coercive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for reporting and writing on the recent communal violence in the state,” the EGI said in the statement.
Tripura Police on Saturday booked 102 social media account holders under the UAPA, criminal conspiracy and forgery charges, and served notices to the authorities of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to freeze their accounts and inform all particulars of those persons to the police.
“This is an extremely disturbing trend where such a harsh law, where in the process of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence,” the Guild said.
This action came after Tripura Police registered a case against four Supreme Court lawyers under the stringent act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code, for allegedly promoting communal disharmony with their social media posts on the recent violence in the state targeting Muslims.
The Guild said that one of the journalists, Shyam Meera Singh, had alleged that he had been booked under the UAPA for merely tweeting Tripura is burning.
For writing only these 3 words “Tripura is burning”, BJP Government of Tripura has imposed UAPA on me. I want to reiterate once again, I will never hesitate to stand up for justice. PM of my country might be a coward, We journalists are not.
मैं आपकी जेलों से नहीं डरता. pic.twitter.com/pw5OrZlDRp
— Shyam Meera Singh (@ShyamMeeraSingh) November 6, 2021
The EGI demanded that the state government should conduct “an objective and fair investigation” into the circumstances of the rights, “instead of penalising” journalists and civil society activists.
Further, the Guild reiterated its earlier demand to the Supreme Court of India to take cognisance of the manner in which such laws are unjustifiably used against freedom of speech, and to issue stringent guidelines on charging journalist under them, “so that these laws don’t become an easy tool for suppressing press freedom.”
A mosque was vandalised and two shops were set ablaze at Chamtilla in Tripura during a rally by Vishwa Hindu Parishad on October 26, which was called to protest against the communal violence in Bangladesh.
Three houses and a few shops, reportedly owned by Muslims, were also ransacked in nearby Rowa Bazar, according to police.
The state government had alleged on October 29 that a group from outside “with vested interests” had hatched “a conspiracy against the administration” to create unrest in Tripura and “malign its image”, by uploading fake photographs of a burning mosque on social media, after the October 26 incident.
(With inputs from Agencies)