‘Free speech, not offence’: SC extends protection to Editors Guild in Manipur report FIRs

The top court extended the interim protection by two weeks.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
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The Supreme Court again extended its interim protection to four members of the Editors Guild of India in the FIRs lodged over their fact-finding report, and said the “entire complaint is the government’s counter-narrative”, Livelaw reported

A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud extended the protection by two weeks. It said that while the report “may be right or wrong”, it was a matter of “free speech”. The bench added that making a “false statement in an article is not an offence under Section 153A”, that involves promoting enmity between different groups.

The three senior journalists – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor – and the guild’s president Seema Mustafa were booked in two cases for alleged defamation and promoting enmity over their fact-finding report published on September 2. The two complaints were filed by retired government official Ngangom Sarat Singh and another Sorokhaibam Thoudam Sangita. It alleged the report furthered “animosity between communities”.

The court said that journalists were “entitled to put forth a viewpoint”. “Making a false statement in an article is not an offence under Section 153A. It may be incorrect. Incorrect things are reported all across the country every day. Will you prosecute journalists for 153A?”

The fact-finding report was prepared by Bhushan, Kapoor and Guha after their three-day visit to Manipur from August 7 to August 10. The report said that media outlets in the valley have “seemingly become Meitei media”. 

Following the report, two valley-based media associations had threatened the guild with legal action, while Manipur chief minister Biren Singh had also hit out at the guild. “I give a warning to the members of the Editors Guild. Who constituted them? If you want to do something, then do visit the spot, see the ground reality, meet the representatives of all communities and then publish what you found.” Read all about it here.

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