The Supreme Court has stayed criminal proceedings over two FIRs lodged by the Tripura police against HW News Network and its journalists Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha, according to .
Headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, the bench also sought a response from the Tripura authorities over a petition filed by the two journalists and the independent media firm against the FIRs﹘that were lodged against them for allegedly instigating communal violence through “fake” news.
Sakunia and Jha were for their reports on the recent communal violence in Tripura. The charges include Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code.
The journalists on a mosque being burned down during the violence that erupted after a VHP rally on October 26. Tripura police had then claimed they were “maligning” the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the BJP-led state government”.
They were granted bail by the Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Gomati district on November 15. Following this, Sakunia, Jha, associate editor Arti Ghargi, along with the media firm Theos Connect, later to seek quashing of the FIRs, which they termed “targeted harassment of press” in December.
In a statement, the Editors Guild of India had noted that the police action against Singh and others was an “extremely disturbing trend” where a “harsh law...is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence”.
“The Guild is of the opinion that 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.”
The Digipub News India Foundation, an association of 11 digital news organisations, had in “the strongest terms” the “sustained pattern of intimidation against journalists of HW News Network”.