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Sedition case against Gujarati news portal editor 'misuse' of special laws: Editors Guild

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani
By Our Representative
The powerful Editors Guild of India (EGI), noting with concern “a growing pattern of misuse of criminal laws to intimidate journalists in different parts of the country”, has said that the sedition charges and detention of Dhaval Patel, editor and owner of a Gujarati news portal, ‘Face of Nation’, by the state police on May 11 is a “misuse of special laws, besides sedition and Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Patel, in a news report on his news portal had suggested the possibility of a leadership change in the state due to criticism over rising coronavirus cases. His story that chief minister Vijay Rupani would be changed created a huge flutter, especially on social media. Patel was charged with sedition under Section 124A of IPC and with spreading false panic under Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act (DMA).
In a statement, EGI president Shekhar Gupta, general secretary AK Bhattacharya, general secretary, and treasurer, Sheela Bhatt, say that this is not an isolated instance.
“The second instance of egregious and high-handed action has come from Delhi Police. On May 10, the Delhi Police sent a notice to Mahender Singh Manral, special correspondent, “The Indian Express”, through the city editor and chief reporter, “The Indian Express”, requiring the journalist, who had reported that police investigations found the possibility of the audio clip of Tablighi Jamaat leader, Maulana Saad, being doctored, to join a probe on this matter on May 10”, the statement reads.
The statement says, “While Manral wasn’t charged under any law, he was threatened that failure to join the probe could result in legal action under Section 174 of the IPC with punishment of a prison term and fine. This appears to be a little more than a fishing expedition to try and extract the journalist’s source and, thus, warn other reporters.”
The statement regrets, “These instances of police action in Gujarat and Delhi are deeply disturbing. The government and the police must recognise that the media is an integral part of the governance structure in any democracy. The Guild condemns these actions and asks the state and central governments to desist from misusing the law to threaten the free press.”
Meanwhile, the Gujarati news portal editor, who was produced before a trial court on May 13, following a day's remand, has been sent to judicial custody. Senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anand Yagnik, who has taken up his case, said, a bail application has been filed before the sessions court. "It is likely to be listed soon for hearing", he added.

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