The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has expressed deep shock at Tripura Police‘s action of booking 102 people, including journalists, under the coercive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Tripura Police has booked the 102 people for reporting and writing on the recent communal violence in the state.
“The state police has sent notices to various social media platforms under UAPA,” the EGI said in a statement.
This move comes a few days after the police had filed UAPA charges against some Delhi-based lawyers, who had visited Tripura as part of an independent fact-finding enquiry commission into the communal violence, it said.
One of the journalists, Shyam Meera Singh, has alleged that he has been booked under UAPA for merely tweeting “Tripura is burning”.
“This is an extremely disturbing trend where such a harsh law, wherein the processes of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence,” EGI said.
The Editors Guild alleged, “this is an attempt by the state government to deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence, as well as to take action against the perpetrators of this”.
Governments cannot use stringent laws like UAPA to suppress reporting on such incidents, the editors’ body stated.
The Editors Guild demanded that the Tripura government conduct an objective and fair investigation into the circumstances of the riots instead of penalising journalists and civil society activists.
Further, the Guild reiterated its earlier demand to the Supreme Court of India, to take cognizance of the manner in which such laws are unjustifiably used against freedom of speech, and to issue stringent guidelines on charging journalists under them, so that these laws don’t become an easy tool for suppressing press freedom.