Six seasoned journalists and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor have been booked by the Noida police for sedition, among other charges, for allegedly “misreporting” and “spreading disharmony” on January 26, when violence erupted during the tractor rally in Delhi.
The journalists against whom the FIR has been lodged are Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, and Anant Nath. Another yet to be identified person has also been named in the FIR.
A complaint by a Noida resident alleged that “digital broadcast” and “social media posts” by these people were responsible for the violence during the tractor rally held by the farmers to protest against the new farm laws. The FIR at the Sector 20 police station.
The FIR has been lodged under penal sections punishing sedition, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, and criminal intimidation.
They have also been booked under the Information Technology Act. According to officials, the Noida police have begun an investigation into the matter.
January 26 witnessed skirmishes between thousands of protesting farmers and the police. Some of the protesters, driving tractors, had entered the Red Fort and hoisted flags on its ramparts.
Update: Editors Guild of India demands withdrawal of the FIR
The Editors Guild of India condemned the “intimidating manner” in which the police filed the FIR against prominent editors and journalists, including current and former officials of the guild, for reporting on the tractor rally.
The guild demanded that the FIR be withdrawn immediately and the media allowed to report “without fear and with freedom”.
In a statement on Friday, the guild said journalists were specifically targeted for reporting accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protesters. “It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and hence it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice,” it said.
It also noted how the FIRs “allege that the tweets were intentionally malicious and were the reason for the desecration of the Red Fort”. Nothing can be further from the truth, the guild said.
It also observed that the “targeting” of journalists “grievously violates and tramples on every value that our democratic republic stands for”, and is intended to “grievously hurt the media and prevent it from working as an independent watchdog of Indian democracy”.