Days after journalist Patricia Mukhim resigned from the Editors Guild of India (EGI), the scribes’ body now has expressed concern over the criminal charges against Mukhim for her four-month-old Facebook post condemning the attack on five non-tribal youths.
Mukhim, who is the editor of Shillong Times, had resigned from the guild in protest against its silence on the matter.
EGI, however, on Sunday said Mukhim’s case was a reflection of the larger threats to freedom of speech in India, which functions under laws that are often used “indiscriminately” by the Centre and law enforcement agencies to stifle dissent.
“Mukhim’s case is an example of how multiple legal provisions can be used against free speech and therefore against free press,” the guild said in a statement.
“Several provisions across multiple laws give a handle to government agencies and law enforcement authorities to lodge criminal cases against journalists wherein the criminal complaint procedure itself becomes an exacting punishment, and acts as deterrent against exercise of free speech,” it added.
The guild said that it was the media’s “prime responsibility” to question the government and report information even if they are “harsh and disturbing”.
“They cannot be held liable for relaying information that may bring to fore details on fault lines within the society, or for that matter, mismanagement and corruption in government affairs,” it said.
The guild further urged the judiciary to take cognisance of the matter that restrains freedom of speech and also issue guidelines to ensure that laws do not serve as a deterrent to a free press.