Imphal/September 25, 2023 (SPN) | The All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) and the Editors’ Guild Manipur (EGM) have issued separate legal notices to the President and three members of the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI).
Representing AMWJU, Junior Advocate Haobam Prabir Kumar Singh, under the guidance of Senior Advocate Sapam Biswajit Meitei, sent a legal notice to the President and members of EGI, namely Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, and Bharat Bushan.
Furthermore, another legal notice was dispatched to the President and the three members of EGI by Advocate Sapam Biswajit Meitei’s junior, Naorem Prista Devi, on behalf of EGM.
The contents of both legal notices bear striking similarities. These legal notices were in response to the “Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Media’s Reportage of the Ethnic Violence in Manipur” published by EGI on September 2.
The legal notices contend that this particular report caused substantial damage to the reputation of both AMWJU and EGM. Consequently, the notices demanded that EGI remove the report from their social media platforms and websites and issue a clarification within 15 days.
The legal notices also issued a warning that if EGI failed to comply within the stipulated 15-day period, legal action, whether civil, criminal, or both, would be initiated against the President and the three members. The notices also reserved the right to claim additional damages under applicable laws due to the alleged defamation.
The conflict arose following the Tribal Solidarity March organized by ATSUM on May 3, which led to the ongoing violence in Manipur. Anurag Pandey, Colonel General Staff (Information Warfare) on behalf of the Army’s 3 Corps GOC, wrote a letter to EGI on July 12, inviting them to investigate the alleged bias in reporting by media outlets in the Imphal valley and determine whether journalism and media house guidelines were breached.
Subsequently, on July 26, EGI solicited donations to fund the expenses of their members during their three-day fact-finding mission to Manipur. The EGI team visited Manipur from August 7 to 10, and their report was released on September 2.
However, the report has been heavily criticized for its alleged bias and sponsorship, favoring one specific community. It also labeled Imphal-based media as ‘Meitei media,’ damaging the reputation and credibility of these outlets.
In response to the Editors’ Guild of India report, AMWJU and EGM issued a joint press release on September 3. Additionally, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force, Government of India, clarified on September 6 that certain statements on pages 3 and 5 of the EGI report were incorrect and unsubstantiated.
Furthermore, a group of 33 individuals wrote to the Editors’ Guild of India President on September 6, demanding the complete withdrawal of the so-called fact-finding mission’s report.
The legal notices argue that publishing the EGI’s report while a Central Government-appointed three-member commission is already investigating the Manipur violence is legally impermissible. They assert that the report was fabricated, biased, and violated journalistic ethics, ultimately exacerbating the ongoing violence.
These legal notices were issued after EGI reportedly ignored three prior letters from AMWJU and EGM requesting the removal of the contested report from the public domain.