The Supreme Court has issued an interim order protecting the President of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) and three senior journalists from potential arrest by the Manipur Police. The journalists had been facing FIRs (First Information Reports) for their ground report, which concluded there was “bias” in the local media’s coverage of ethnic clashes.
A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, scheduled a detailed hearing for September 11 and directed the Manipur Police not to take any coercive actions against the journalists until then.
The FIRs had accused EGI President Seema Mustafa, along with journalists Sanjay Kapoor, Seema Guha, and Bharat Bhushan, of various offenses, including promoting enmity between different groups. The complaints alleged that the EGI report contained “incorrect and false statements.”
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing EGI, stated that the report was based on extensive travel and interviews with victims and eyewitnesses between August 7 and 10. He highlighted that any errors in the report were promptly corrected.
Divan expressed concerns about the right to free speech and personal liberty of the journalists, especially in light of Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh’s statements in a press conference following the report’s release. Singh accused EGI of stoking passions and making provocative statements.
The Supreme Court initially questioned why the journalists had not approached the High Court before directly filing a writ petition. However, after deliberation, the court decided to hear the case on September 11.
The EGI report had raised concerns about the media’s role during the ethnic violence in Manipur, highlighting one-sided reporting due to the inability to cross-check and monitor reports by local journalists during the conflict.
The Supreme Court’s interim order aims to protect the journalists from potential arrest until a thorough hearing of the case takes place.