Media mustn’t ‘cow down to political browbeating’: Editors Guild on Smriti Irani, Kerala marks row

Digipub said the Irani incident shows ‘the ease with which legacy media institutions show deference to those in authority’.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
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The Editors Guild issued a statement today condemning “recent incidents of intimidation and harassment of journalists by political leaders while doing their jobs”. “This trigger-happy approach to browbeat and harass reporters and camera persons undermine the freedom of the press,” it said.

The guild singled out two news events – an exchange between BJP minister Smriti Irani and a stringer in Uttar Pradesh, and an FIR against an Asianet journalist in Kerala.

In Kerala, the journalist and four others had been named in a complaint filed by a Students’ Federation of India leader over a purported conspiracy to “defame” him. Asianet chief reporter Akhila Nandakumar told Newslaundry she had “adhered to the standard reporting practices” in her work.

The guild urged the CPIM government in Kerala to “withdraw the case...with immediate effect”, noting: “It is a matter of deep concern that mere reportage on political leaders can invite an FIR and questioning by the police.”

In Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi, Irani had ticked off a journalist for asking her to give the media a byte. She also threatened to complain to his boss. A day later, another stringer with Dainik Bhaskar lost his job over this exchange. Read all about it here.

The Editors Guild said it was “deeply disturbed by the intimidatory conduct of the union minister and would like to remind Ms Irani that threats to journalists impinge directly on press freedom”. It also urged Dainik Bhaskar “to reinstate the journalist”.

“EGI once again underlines its repeated requests to all political parties to desist from harassing and intimidating working journalists and media houses,” the statement concluded. “...Further, media houses have the fundamental duty of protecting the journalists working with them, reporters and stringers alike, and should not cow down to any kind of political browbeating.”

‘Digipub’

Digipub also issued a statement condemning Irani’s “castigation” of a reporter in Amethi.

“Not only was Ms Irani’s attitude to the reporter indefensible, her words, ‘I will call your newspaper’, are proof of the Indian government’s contempt for journalistic freedom, demonstrably mitigated in the past few years,” the statement said.

The Amethi incident shows the “dismal condition of stringers and reporters working in India’s two and three-tier cities, who are often unpaid and treated like throwaways by the media outlets they provide coverage. It also exposes the ease with which legacy media institutions show deference to those in authority.”

This report was updated on June 14 with the statement from Digipub.

Also see
article imageSmriti Irani ko gussa kyun aya: The story behind the minister’s outburst, and the aftermath
article imageIn Kerala, 'targeting' of Asianet brings CPM’s frayed ties with the media back in focus
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