NEW DELHI: The Editors Guild Of India wrote to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to address the issues of press freedom.
It said it was keen to send a delegation to Lucknow to explore ways to create a protective environment for the media to function fearlessly by collaborating with the administration.
It urged the UP government to free jailed journalists, withdraw cases under review and to ensure safety of all journalists in the state.
“In the recent past, several incidents have come to fore which raise deep concerns on the space for free, fearless and independent journalism in UP,” said the Guild in a statement.
Highlighting the recent episode involving Republic TV, the Guild, without naming the channel, said there were more compelling cases of intimidation.
“While you were right to promptly uphold the freedom of the press when an editor of a TV channel was arrested in Mumbai, there are far more compelling cases of intimidation, harassment by authorities of working journalists in UP who were prevented from doing their job,” said the statement.
The Guild said several journalists in UP were arrested on “spurious charges”, naming Siddique Kappan, Supriya Sharma, Ravindra Saxena, Vijay Vineet, Manish Mishra, Asad Rizvi and five journalists from Bijnor.
"We are writing to urge you to address vital issues with respect to protecting press freedom and the rights and safety of working journalists in the state of Uttar Pradesh," said the letter signed by Editors Guild president Seema Mustafa, general secretary Sanjay Kapoor and treasurer Anant Math.
"In the recent past, several incidents have come to fore, which raise deep concerns on the space for free, fearless and independent journalism in Uttar Pradesh," they said.
The Guild also listed some of the cases in which journalists have been "unjustifiably arrested on spurious charges".
It cited the case of Siddiqui Kappan, a Delhi-based journalist who works for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham, saying that accompanied by three others, he was on his way to Hathras, to report the gang rape of a Dalit girl, when he was picked up in Mathura on October 5, 2020, and later booked under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Guild also cited the case registered against Supriya Sharma, Executive Editor of Scroll on June 18, 2020, for reporting a series of stories on the poor state of affairs in Varanasi.
To highlight the concerns regarding press freedom in the state, the Guild also cited several other cases in which journalists were booked while they were doing their job of reporting.
"As the Chief Minister of India's largest state, you are well aware of the important precedence that the state sets with respect to safeguarding all constitutional rights," the letter to the CM said.
"This is especially crucial with respect to preserving the space for free media, more so at a time when the world has been in the throes of a pandemic.
Media has played an important role in raising awareness about the pandemic," it said.
"We urge you to free the jailed journalists, withdraw cases that are under review, as well as to ensure safety of all working journalists in the state," the Guild said.
The Guild said it is keen to send a delegation of national editors to Lucknow to meet the chief minister and to work with his administration to explore ways that can create a protective environment for the media to work without fear or favour.
(With PTI Inputs)