Crime & Justice

Police file case against journalists for report on ethnic conflict in northeast India

New Delhi, Sep 4 (EFE).- Indian police have filed a criminal case against a group of editors who alleged that the government might have played a partisan role in pushing the violence-marred northeastern state of Manipur “into turmoil.”

The police complaint against a crowdfunded fact-finding team of the Editors’ Guild of India came after journalists from the nonprofit visited Manipur from Aug. 7 to 10 to investigate local media reportage during months of the deadly ethnic conflict.

The guild published the report on Sunday.

“The state government has filed an FIR (first information report) against the members of the editors guild who are trying to create more clashes in the state of Manipur,” Chief Minister N. Biren Singh told reporters in the state capital, Imphal.

Local media reported the case was filed by a social worker against prominent editors, Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, and Bharat Bhushan, who were on a fact-finding mission to Manipur.

Guild president Seema Mustafa was also named in the police complaint.

The complaint alleged that the report was “false, fabricated, and sponsored,” referring to a photo of a building on fire in the document.

The report erroneously claimed in a photo caption that the building belonged to a Kuki-Chin minority family and was set on fire during clashes with the majority Meitei community.

The complainant argued that the photograph indicated that the report was false because the building was not a residential house but belonged to the forest department.

However, the guild had already issued a corrigendum to correct the caption, regretting the “error that crept in at the photo editing stage.”

Chief Minister Singh, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), condemned the guild for the erroneous and biased report.

Singh suggested the guild should have visited the spot, seen the ground reality, and met representatives of all communities before publishing findings.

“Meeting some sections only and drawing conclusions is highly condemnable,” the chief minister said.

The state plunged into a violent crisis on May 3, when hostilities broke out between the minority Kuki tribe and the majority Meitei people.

The guild said the months-long ethnic conflict has left more than 180 people dead and driven out over 54,000 residents from their homes.

“The state government seems to have facilitated the majority’s anger against the Kukis through several seemingly partisan statements and policy measures,” the guild said in its report.

The report said its authors met with violence-affected people in the state, and “some would say the (chief minister) CM’s partisan actions had in fact pushed the state into turmoil.”

In its report, the guild said it found the local media coverage in Manipur to be “one-sided,” written without cross-checking of the facts.

The government’s “internet ban made matters worse,” as the communication blockade “had a deleterious effect on journalism.” EFE


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