The Editors Guild pointed out that the seizure of phones and computers by the police is a violation of procedures and rules of the investigation
NEW DELHI – Several media groups, including Editors Guild of India (EGI) and Press Club of India (PCI), have issued statements condemning the raids conducted by the Delhi police at the residences of The Wire editors as well as its offices in Delhi and Mumbai in connection with the FIR filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT cell head Amit Malvya over their retracted stories related the Meta.
The media groups called the raids “attack on Freedom of Expression”, “excessive and disproportionate” and “smacks of sheer vendetta”.
In a statement on Wednesday, the EGI pointed out that the seizure of phones and computers by the police is the violation of procedures and rules of the investigation.
“The haste with which the police searches were carried out at multiple locations is excessive and disproportionate, and in the manner of a fishing and roving enquiry. Further, as per a statement published by The Wire, the police personnel seized phones, computers, and iPads from homes of the journalists, as well as from the office, and no harsh value of the digital devices was given in spite of requests made by them. This is a serious violation of procedures and rules of investigation. Moreover, digital devices of editors and journalists would have sensitive information pertaining to journalistic sources and stories under work, the confidentiality of which can be seriously compromised in such seizures,” said the EGI.
It pointed out that The Wire already has apologised to the serious lapses in their own stories pertaining to Meta with reference to Malaviya and the website’s lapses.
“However, these police search and seizures in violation of established rules and in intimidator manner is also alarming,” said The Guild urging the law enforcement agencies to strictly adhere to rules of investigation in this matter, and to ensure the integrity of sensitive journalistic information is not violated and other on-going work of the news organization is not obstructed.
In a joint statement, seven media groups – Press Club of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, Press Association, Working News Cameraman Association, Indian Journalist Union, DIGIPUB News India Foundation and Kerala Union of Working Journalists – expressed solidarity with The Wire.
These groups are of the view that “while the media has a responsibility to report and has to be responsible in reporting at all times, the manner in which the Delhi police has acted on the complaint of a BJP spokesperson (Malviya) smacks of sheer vendetta. Such actions have a chilling effect on the rest of the media and impact the freedom of speech as well”.
Condemning the raids, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalism (BUJ) described the police action as “attack on critics of the present regime and freedom of speech”.
“We also strongly feel that this latest attack on The Wire should not be seen in isolation. This is not just an attack on critics of the present regime and freedom of speech. The raids are an integral part of the Make in India spectacle where all dissent is “anti-national” and all struggle a species of “urban Naxalism ”. The India state is visibly tightening the noose and the crony capitalists are loudly clapping,” said the BUJ.
The BUJ also pointed out that government-friendly media are enjoying impunity for spreading fake news but the Wire is being harassed.
“Without glossing over The Wire’s lapse, it would be pertinent to recall that in the recent post there have been numerous instances of media excesses and completely over-the-top stories by media houses; be it absurd reports of chips in currency notes, fake WhatsApp forwards on Chinese soldiers killed in Galwan or unalloyed hate-mongering and incitement. These “reports” have enjoyed complete immunity and have hurtled India into a post-Truth conjuncture, where the right to be reliably informed itself has been steadily jettisoned,” noted the BUM.