NEW DELHI, Nov 19 - The Editors Guild of India today voiced concern over a recent order of the Assam Rifles to newspapers, saying it could �severely curtail freedom of Nagaland-based media houses� and asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to intervene.
Terming as �pernicious� the order by Assam Rifles, which had �warned� newspapers against carrying statements by militant groups, especially National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), since it had been declared a terrorist organisation by Centre, the Guild said it supports newspapers which demonstrated their unwillingness to follow it.
Any restrictions on coverage of legitimate news or efforts to silence the media is an assault on freedom of media which the Editors Guild condemns, it added.
It is �reprehensible� that the Assam Rifles sought to �censor� the newspapers by threatening to punish them under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967, if they violated the order, the Guild statement signed by its President Raj Chengappa, General Secretary Prakash Dubey and Treasurer Seema Mustafa said.
The senior journalists, in the statement, added that it is common knowledge that in newspapers being published in zones having unresolved issues and conflict, there are many views and opinions that are expressed.
�While everyone appreciates that police has a role to play in maintenance of law and order, it is important for newspapers in the spirit of fairness and objectivity to report divergent opinions after due diligence and with responsibility,� the Guild said. Five newspapers had yesterday published blank editorials as a mark of protest against the Assam Rifles order.
It urged the Home Minister to intervene and lift the order in the interest of press freedom.
�The Guild views positively the offer of Nagaland media houses to work with the democratically elected Government of Nagaland on issues that would enable the media to function freely and address any objections in a peaceful and constructive manner,� the statement said. � PTI
Dimapur Correspondent adds: In the aftermath of criticism pouring in from various quarters, the Assam Rifles yesterday said it had only requested editors on October 24 to publish articles of NSCN-K in consonance with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
Denying any �gag order� on the press, IGAR(N), in a release, maintained that publication of �extortion notice� by a �banned organisation� (NSCN-K) is akin to abetting it in collection of funds for carrying out subversive activities against government agencies and security forces.
The release said if media houses found it correct to publish such articles, then it is their call. Further, the Assam Rifles said media houses were not asked to dilute their free reporting at any stage and that the contents of the advisory was being �deliberately misinterpreted.�
It also said media houses cannot �feign ignorance� on the MHA notification in declaring NSCN-K as a banned terrorist organisation and the legal repercussions.
Meanwhile, the Naga Hoho, the apex Naga civil society organisation, said while the entire civilised society across nations were against the AFSPA 1958, the notification issued by the Assam Rifles on October 25, 2015 directing editors of newspapers not to publish press statements of the banned NSCN-K by invoking provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, had surprised Naga people.