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FIRs against Editors Guild over Manipur report; added fuel to fire, says CM Biren Singh

In two FIRs registered on Monday, the Manipur Police booked the Editors Guild of India president and three members of its team over a report that criticised the role of the state administration and alleged bias by officials and a section of the media in the ethnic conflict.

One of the FIRs, registered at the Imphal police station on Sunday night, was based on the complaint of one Ngangom Sarat Singh, who claimed to be a social worker. It alleged that the report was “false, fabricated” and “sponsored by Kuki militants and their supporters.”

The other FIR, based on a complaint by one Sorokhaibam Sangita, was registered the same night at Imphal’s Porompat police station.

Announcing that the government had registered an FIR, Chief Minister N Biren Singh told a press conference Monday that the Guild was adding fuel to the fire and “trying to create more clashes in the state.”

“What do they (Guild) think of us? I am asking this question. Who are they? Who are the members of the Editors Guild? How far do they know about the Northeast… about Manipur’s history? Without knowing the complexity and the ground reality, how did they come to any conclusions?” Singh said.

“The Honourable Supreme Court and the Indian Government have created many committees to probe into the issue and they are working on it. The ECI’s making a judgement on the matter is highly condemnable and we have registered an FIR against them,” he said.

The Guild’s team – comprising Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor and Bharat Bhushan – visited the state on August 7-10 and released a 24-page report on September 2. It was constituted after the Guild said it had received several representations, including from the Indian Army, about “uneven and biased reportage of the conflict.”

The report alleged that the leadership of the state “became partisan during the conflict” and “failed to do its duty as a democratic government which should have represented the entire state”.

“There is a Meitei government, Meitei police and Meitei bureaucracy in Imphal and the tribal people in the Hills have no faith in them,” the report said, adding that the Manipur media had turned into “Meitei media”.

Condemning the report, at the press conference, Chief Minister Singh said the Guild “instigated hostility among one another and attempted to cause more turmoil by putting oil to the already burning state instead of cooling down the flames”.

“Don’t come if you don’t know about the background and the history of Manipur. Please don’t come and say anything. Before coming, you people have to understand the background of the present crisis; how it happened, how it got created and who created it. Let the investigation be finished,” he said.

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The Guild members have been booked under IPC sections relating to promoting enmity, defamation and intent to hurt religious feelings.

While the Guild has not yet reacted to the FIRs, the Press Club of India condemned it Monday, calling it a case of “shooting the messenger.”

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On Sunday, the Editors Guild of Manipur and the All Manipur Working Journalists Union also issued a joint statement threatening a legal suit against the Editors Guild of India for “grave misrepresentation of the Imphal based journalists community.”

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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