LAST LAUGHT? Patricia Mukhim. Image Credit - Facebook @patricia.mukhim

A civil society organisation in Meghalaya has decided to go for crowd funding to cover the expenses to be incurred during the legal battle between the judiciary and press.

Meghalaya People’s Committee for Freedom of Expression and Free Press (MPCFOEFP) has started a crowd funding initiative to help the legal battle of editor and publisher of The Shillong TimesPatricia Mukhim and Sobha Choudhury respectively, who will be approaching the Supreme Court against the Meghalaya High court that recently held both of them guilty of contempt of court.

A Meghalaya High Court judge on March 8 held the editor and publisher of the Shillong based newspaper guilty for publishing news on a court’s verdict on extending perks and facilities to the retired judges.

The court held them guilty of contempt of court and asked both of them to sit in a corner in the court hall until the rising of the court and imposed a fine of Rs. 2 lakh each.

The court also threatened to imprison the duo if they fail to deposit the fine to the registry of the court and ban the publication.

“Both Patricia Mukhim and Shobha Choudhury have decided to appeal in the Supreme Court. However, we feel that the people in general need to come together to send a strong message against the intimidation to press freedom. So, Meghalaya People’s Committee for Freedom of Expression and Free Press (MPCFOEFP) appeals for all citizens to come together and help,” said the forum who has already started the crowd funding initiative.

Different media persons’ and organizations including the Editors Guild of India have condemned the Meghalaya court’s verdict holding the editor and publisher guilty of contempt of court and said that court order threatening to ban the publication is intimidatory in nature and undermines the press freedom.

“The Editors Guild of India is deeply distressed over the Meghalaya High Court’s order in a contempt case against The Shillong Times including its Editor and Publisher for reporting the proceedings of the Court.

“The order, which among other things imposes a fine along with a threat of imprisonment and a ban on the publication, is intimidatory and undermines press freedom. It is ironical that the judiciary which should uphold press freedom has instead issued an order that militates against freedom of expression. The Guild urges the judiciary to exercise its constitutional powers with utmost caution and care so that the role of a free media in a democracy is duly respected,” the Editors Guild of India said in a statement.

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