New Delhi: As the Center retreated after around 15 countries, including a majority of Gulf countries, harshly criticized the controversial remarks of two BJP members on the Prophet Muhammad, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) expressed concern about the “irresponsible conduct of certain national news channels to deliberately create circumstances that target vulnerable communities by spouting hatred towards them and their beliefs,” in a June 8 press release.
The statement, signed by Seema Mustafa and Sanjay Kapoor, chairman and general secretary of EGI respectively, blamed some national media outlets for sensationalizing hate speech by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and the head of the IT unit of the BJP of Delhi Naveen Kumar Jindal.
The statement noted how “there was a riot in Kanpur accompanied by an unprecedented incisive reaction from many countries who were offended by the words of the ruling party spokespersons. In their angry statements, they questioned India’s commitment to human rights and religious freedom.
He added: “The incident which caused unnecessary embarrassment to the country could have been avoided had some of the television stations been aware of the nation’s constitutional commitment to secularism, as well as journalistic ethics and guidelines that the Press Council of India has issued to manage a volatile communal situation.
The EGI did not mince words in condemning the role of the media in the “embarrassment” of the nation. He said: “Some of these channels driven by the desire to increase audience and profits were apparently inspired by the values of Radio Rwanda whose incendiary broadcasting caused genocide in the African nation”.
“EGI demands that these channels pause and take a critical look at what they have done in legitimizing the divisive and toxic voices that have rendered the national discourse crass and the divide between communities unbridgeable.”
The Guild demanded stricter vigilance from broadcasters and journalists to prevent this from happening again. “The media is in place to uphold the Constitution and the law and not break them out of sheer irresponsibility and lack of accountability,” he said.
Since the outrage of the Gulf countries, the BJP has suspended Sharma and Jindal.
Meanwhile, Caravan came out with a statement by Shahid Tantray, a well-known journalist associated with the magazine, alleging Srinagar police harassment instead of his recent articles on the media situation at J&K. Tantray wrote in the statement how he had received phone calls from security agencies asking him not to write “risky articles” and even to leave Kashmir. Tantray alleged that repeated phone calls, especially to his family members, caused a flurry of trouble for him.
“From the statement of facts above, it is clear that between my first article on the crackdown on press freedom in Kashmir and the second story about the role of the Indian army in the nationalist protests in Kashmir, my family and I were constantly harassed by the police. I wish to bring this to your kind attention and ask you to take cognizance of the stated facts. I also ask that you intervene, in the interest of protecting free and fair reporting and my right to practice my profession, without fear of repercussions for myself and my family,” the statement read.