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Senior news anchor and consulting editor of India Today, Rajdeep Sardesai has been taken off the air for two weeks with deduction of his one-month salary over an incorrect tweet, and announcement on live television that the man who died during the Republic Day tractor rally in Delhi on January 26 was shot dead.
“One person, 45-year-old Navneet, was killed allegedly in police firing at ITO,” Sardesai had said in a deleted tweet.
Sardesai said this after receiving inputs from some protesters who alleged he had died in the police firing. The Delhi Police later clarified that the farmer died in an accident that occurred after his tractor overturned.
“While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors’ allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited,” Sardesai said in another tweet.
Following the incident, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh police have registered FIRs against senior editors and journalists for allegedly misreporting, provoking, and spreading communal disharmony during the clashes between the police and protesting farmers that took place in the national capital on January 26.
The FIRs has been registered under various sections of Indian penal code (IPC) on sedition charges and for promoting enmity between different groups, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, incite violence, and criminal conspiracy.
Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) has condemned the “intimidating” manner in which UP and MP police have registered FIRs against senior journalists, for reporting on farmers’ protests in Delhi on January 26. EGI finds these FIRs as an attempt to intimidate, harass, and stifle free media.
EGI said that the journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts of the death of one protestor on their social media handles, and those of the publications they lead and represent.
It may be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground and the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged, EGI said adding that this is a line with established norms of journalistic practice.
The EGI demanded that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately and the media be allowed to report without fear and with freedom.
“We also reiterate our earlier demand that the higher judiciary takes serious cognizance of the fact that several laws such as sedition are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press,” said EGI.
(Edited by Laxmi Chyrmang)