The Editors Guild of India on Friday said that it was deeply concerned over the registration of an FIR against Scroll's Executive Editor Supriya Sharma under SC/ST Act in Varanasi.
In a statement, the Guild said that the use of criminal provisions of the law against journalists has now become an unhealthy and despicable trend. They added that it was a "flagrant misuse of laws unjustifiable and reprehensible". "The increasing frequency of such misuse of laws by the authorities is tantamount to shooting the messenger and destroying a key pillar of India's democracy," the Guild further wrote.
Here is the full statement:
What is the case?
Scroll's Executive Editor Supriya Sharma has been booked under Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as also under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act). This is regarding Sharma's article published on June 8 - In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown.
The complainant, Mala Devi, who was quoted by Sharma in her report, alleged that her story was ‘misreported’ by the journalist and presented as one of extreme poverty and hunger when that was not the case. The report mentioned that Mala Devi is a single mother of five and works as a domestic help and she wasn't paid by her employers during the lockdown. The report quoted her saying, “We would sleep on chai and roti, sometimes not even that.”
Meanwhile, Scroll stood by the article and said that the FIR was an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism. “Scroll.in interviewed Mala in Domari village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on June 5, 2020. Her statements have accurately been reported in the article titled, ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown," they said.
"Scroll.in stands by the article, which has been reported from the Prime Minister’s constituency. This FIR is an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism, reporting on conditions of vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 lockdown," they added.