Pinnacle Court gives a huge relief for Women Journalists Over Tripura Fake Report

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The Top court stayed further proceedings on FIRs registered against journalists of a digital news network in connection with reportage of the alleged communal violence in Tripura. A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notice on the plea filed by journalists, who are part of the HW News Network which is run by Theo Connect Private Limited and three of its journalists seeking the quashing of two FIRs dated November 14 and 18. The court gave the state four weeks to file its counter-affidavit. Two journalists Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha and Arti Ghargi, who is the associate editor, were booked over their story about a mosque that was burnt in Tripura’s Gomati district amid communal violence in the state. The FIRs registered against them mention charges of criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, breach of peace, making assertions prejudicial to national integration, which are punishable offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, for the petitioners, said, “The difficulty being faced is that you report the news, and one FIR is registered and then a second one is registered to say that it has been established in the first FIR that journalists are wrong. This is wrong and cannot be justified,” he argued. The police have accused the journalists of spreading communal hatred by publishing baseless reports on the alleged violence. The journalists also said that the first information reports amounted to targeted harassment of the press. “If the State is allowed to criminalise the very act of fact-finding and unbiased reporting then the only facts that will come in the public domain are those that are convenient to the State due to the chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression of members of civil society,” the petition read. Last month, the top court granted similar relief to three persons – two lawyers and a journalist -- who approached the court for relief after they were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for releasing a fact-finding report on the alleged destruction of a mosque and other properties in the state.