The Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has condemned the filing of an FIR by Tripura Police against two young women journalists.
The Tripura Police has invoked Indian Penal Code (IPC) charges under sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, provocation with intent to cause riot and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, against two reporters, Samruddhi Sakunia, 21 and Swarna Jha, 25.
Both these brave young women have been reporting from Tripura on the recent incidents of communal trouble there.
“They have thus rendered a public service to Indian democracy by bringing to light issues from a far-flung and largely forgotten corner of India, for which they should be commended,” the media organisation said in a statement.
The Tripura Police earlier filed cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against 70 people including a journalist, Shyam Meera Singh, who merely tweeted “Tripura is burning”.
“In the present instance, it has filed the F.I.R. on a complaint that alleges that Sakunia and Jha, by their reporting, are maligning the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal by connecting those organisations to an attack on a mosque, thus damaging communal harmony,” FMP stated.
India’s rank in the World Press Freedom Index 2021 is at 142 in the world, behind actual dictatorships such as Myanmar, it said.
Cases of police action against journalists whose reportage contradicts government versions have become all too common.
The media organisation said the point of “free media” is to bring to light problems and issues that may otherwise escape the notice of responsible authorities “so that timely and corrective action may be taken”.
“However, now the bringing of any ‘negative’ issues to light is increasingly seen as a crime in India, with only public relations flattery being welcomed by the authorities,” FMP asserted.
“This is a danger not only to the press but also to governance and Indian democracy. We call upon the Tripura Police to withdraw the F.I.R. against Sakunia and Jha,” said the statement issued by FMP president Samrat Choudhury.