Take any war, revolution or movement; newspapers (especially) and radio, television (traditionally) and now even all the new forms of social media (increasingly) have been the source of exposure to different perspectives, reporting facts and forming opinions.
Any factual mistakes in reporting have almost always meant corrigendum. The size of which ideally corresponds to the magnitude of the mistake. But FIR for a reporting error or even an opinionated tweet, is what merits a little post mortem and a lot of open discussion.
As the fresh news of freelance journalist Mandeep Punia being denied bail and sent to jail for 14 days hits the headlines, we take a look at similar incidents in the recent past.
FIR against journalist Mandeep Punia
Punia has been accused by the police of obstructing them in the discharge of their duties and beating police personnel.
As per Punia's lawyer, he was picked up at the Singhu protest site on Saturday evening and a Delhi court on Sunday remanded him to 14 days' of judicial custody. While his bail application comes up for hearing on Monday, the FIR mentions that Punia along with other protestors, "clung to the policemen and one of them dragged Constable Rajkumar towards the protest site."
IPC Section 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of his duties), Section 332 (causing hurt to public servant) and 353 (assault and criminal force to deter public servant) have been pressed against Punia.
Punia's lawyers have stated that no information was given to his family members until late last night and it was only after a colleague of Punia reached the police station to file missing person case that they came to know of his detention.
FIR against Siddharth Varadarajan
An FIR has been filed on Sunday against The Wire's editor Siddharth Varadarajan by UP Police for posting a 'provocative' tweet regarding the death of a Rampur farmer during the farmers' tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day.
The FIR registered under Sections of 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and Section 505 (2) for inciting violence, says, "Mr Varadarajan tweeted about a story in The Wire wherein the grandfather of the deceased farmer Navreet Singh is cited as alleging that his grandson died of a bullet injury. The article further quotes the grandfather who says that one of the doctors in the panel who conducted the post mortem told him that on condition of anonymity. The FIR states that the news report was presented in a fashion that led to tension in the area.
FIR against Rajdeep Sardesai and five others
It is not just UP Police, but even MP and Delhi Police that have filed FIR against Rajdeep Sardesai, apart from several other journalists. Following January 26 violence, Madhya Pradesh police filed a case against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six journalists (namely, Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath) under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, regional groups etc) and 153 (a)(1) (any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religions, regional groups) and Section 505 (statement that promote enmity).
Misrod police inspector Niranjan Sharma said the FIR was registered after a complaint was lodged wherein, "the complainant accused these people of posting false information and misleading tweets from their accounts during the farmers' protest on January 26 in the national Capital."
FIR for a video showcasing the plight of school children at a UP government event
Less than a week ago, an FIR was lodged by a Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA), the official who takes care of primary education in government schools against three journalists Mohit, Amit and Yasin. The case was registered at Akbarpur police station of Kanpur Dehat under Section 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation).
The three journalists in question were also accused of threatening the BSA. Apart from airing the news report which alleged that, "several government school students shivered in biting cold while government officials were busy with an event."
After the videos went viral on the social media, the officials concerned claimed that the children were made to take off their winter wear for the purpose of exercises. The officials also claimed that the three journalists were not present at the event.
Who supported and who didn't
How are the journalists mentioned in the FIR reacting to the charges against them is not the point. Whether the journalistic community is coming together on the issues (or not) is the question.
A mere tweet is often mistaken for lip service or arm chair activism. Editor Prannoy Roy let his thoughts loud and clear with just a one word tweet, "Outrageous" for the FIR against The Wire editor Varadarajan. Journalist Sonia Singh, editorial director at NDTV, has tweeted in support of free press, "No prison is big enough to contain free speech," with a hashtag #FreeMandeepPunia.
Editors Guild of India on FIRs against journalists on R-day violence
The Editors Guild of India has slammed the FIRs against journalists over R-day violence. The body released an official press statement that said, "The FIR alleges that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort. Nothing can be further from the truth. We find these FIRs filed in different states as an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media. The fact that the FIRs had been registered under 10 different provisions including sedition laws, promoting communal disharmony and insulting religious beliefs was disturbing." It further said, "We demand that these FIRs be withdrawn immediately and media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom."
End of the day, who is at loss?
The platform that is meant to make the right noises is itself under the scanner and subjected to all sorts of noises. State-sponsored media, fake reports, opinionated edits, all sorts of questions and allegations have cropped up in the Indian media. But is FIR the answer or should we go back to apologies?
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