FIR filed against Editor’s Guild of India over ‘one-sided’ report on Manipur violence

FIR filed against Editor's Guild of India over 'one-sided' report on Manipur violence


On 4th September, Chief Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh announced that the state government has filed an FIR against the members of the Editors Guild for “trying to create more clashes in the state”. The FIR has been registered based on a complaint submitted under Sections 153A, 200, 295, 298, 505, 505(1), 499, 120B of the Indian Penal Code and 66A of the IT Act against Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, Bharat Bhushan, and the president of Editors’ Guild of India.

In a press conference, he said, “I also give a warning to the members of the Editors Guild, if you want to do something, then do visit the spot, see the ground reality, meet the representatives of all communities and then publish what you found. Otherwise, meeting some sections only and coming to a conclusion is highly condemnable. The State government has filed an FIR against the members of the Editors Guild who are trying to create more clashes in the state of Manipur.”

EGI report and the errors

Three fact-finding team members commissioned by the Editors’ Guild of India to investigate media coverage of an ethnic conflict in Manipur have been accused of submitting a “false, fabricated and sponsored” report. The report, released on Saturday, suggested that the state government had taken sides during the conflict and criticized it for failing to represent the entire state. Imphal-based social worker N Sarat Singh filed a police case against the three journalists – Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, and Bharat Bhushan – alleging that the report contained errors.

On May 3, a large-scale violence broke out in a district located 65 km from Imphal, the state capital of India. The violence resulted from a protest by the Kuki tribes against the Meiteis, who are the majority in the valley, over their demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status. The Forest Department beat office, which was set on fire by a mob on the same day, was a part of the building that was affected by the violence. An FIR was filed on May 3 evening by a sub-inspector, Jangkholal Kipgen, who stated that many angry crowds had used fire or explosive substances to damage the Forest Department beat office.

The EGI, in its report that was published on X (formerly Twitter), had marked the building as a Kuki house. Later, it accepted the mistake in a post on X. The organization has promised to rectify the mistake and upload an updated report soon. The EGI claimed the error crept in during the photo editing stage.

The Manipur report has accused the EGI government of labelling all Kuki tribes as “illegal immigrants” after 4,000 refugees fleeing the military coup in neighbouring Myanmar crossed into Manipur. The report criticized the state government for taking steps that led to resentment among the Chin-Kukis by facilitating the majority’s anger against the Kukis through several seemingly partisan statements and policy measures.

Regarding the EGI report, a social worker named N Sarat Singh filed an FIR and said that it had not mentioned key facts about large-scale illegal immigration to Manipur that threatens the indigenous people with a demographic change. “The abnormal population growth in Manipur is also evident from the fact that the Census of 2001 has not been finalized for the nine hills subdivision of the state due to the abnormal decadal growth of the population up to 169 per cent,” said N Sarat Singh. The social worker also added that various unaccounted populations exist in Manipur, illegally coming from neighbouring countries, including Myanmar.

The EGI report faulted Imphal Valley-based media as biased toward the Meitei community. The report states that the Meitei media acted collectively, with editors consulting each other and agreeing on a common narrative. However, the downside of such an approach during ethnic violence is that it can easily slip into forging a common ethnic narrative and lead to a collective downslide of journalistic principles by deciding what to report and what to censor, the EGI report said in its concluding remarks.

The Manipur Journalists’ Collective and the Manipur Editors’ Guild objected to the EGI report and accused it of wrong representation of the media in the state. The All Manipur Working Journalists Union and the Editors’ Guild Manipur took strong exception to the “half-baked so-called fact-finding report, which was completed in merely four days.” The EGI team visited Manipur to carry out the report after crowdfunding the exercise. On July 26, the EGI posted on X asking for donations to fund “a fact-finding mission to document media’s coverage of the Manipur ethnic clashes.”

Reports suggest that the Manipur government is also considering investigating the sources of donations of the three-member EGI team.

EGI is yet to comment on the FIR registered against them.





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