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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022
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FIR Against Journos For 'Wrong' China Story?

FIR Against Journos For 'Wrong' China Story?
FIR Against Journos For 'Wrong' China Story?
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+05:30

All right, so New Delhi has spoken on, what it calls, the media's anti-China hysteria and told all concerned to cool it. No body would have any problems with that. But how does one react to a recent report* about the home ministry planning to file FIRs against two TOI reporters -- Nirmalya Banerjee & Prabin Kalita -- for their front page story of September 15, 2 ITBP jawans injured in China border firing - First Breach Of 1996 Agreement::

The firing in an area identified as Kerang in northern Sikkim took place a fortnight ago but has been kept under wraps. It was confirmed on Monday by a highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media. ITBP officials at its headquarters in New Delhi declined to confirm the incident.

It was the first incident where bullets have been fired since the landmark 1996 Sino-India agreement in which both sides pledged not to open fire, no matter what the provocation, as a part of confidence-building measures.

Sources cite this as yet another instance of China maintaining pressure on the 2.1 sq km area of ‘Finger Tip’ in northern Sikkim. Last year, China had sent a vehicle patrol into this area, penetrating 1km into Indian territory. The Kerang shootout prompted an unscheduled border personnel meeting on August 30.

The Indo Tibetan Border Police had already lodged a complaint before the Delhi Police, denying the story. On September 16, the TOI itself carried a small report headlined ITBP clarifies:

Responding to a TOI report, ‘2 ITBP jawans injured in China border firing’, the ITBP had clarified that no such incident of firing has taken place on the India-China border and no member of the ITBP had been injured. 

So what is the government's case? That the story was 'cooked up' and there was no ' highly placed intelligence source' as claimed by the September 15 report? Or is it that they want the journalists to reveal who their source was since they have very clearly mentioned it was a " highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media"? Or is it just the usual sarkari way of scaring and subduing the media into self-censorship?

*Edited to add: The story first appeared in the Hindu on Sunday, September 20, bylined "New Delhi Bureau":  Media asked not to ‘overplay’ China border incidents:

“We have taken this story very seriously. We are going ahead with our decision to take criminal action against the two reporters and we will soon file an FIR. They have quoted some highly placed intelligence source in their story. Let them appear before the court and tell who is this source who gave them information,” top sources in the Home Ministry said on Saturday.

Though they refused to say what crime the two reporters would be charged with, MHA officials said Indian law proscribed the promotion of enmity with other countries.

The story was on the front-page of the Indian Express on Monday, September 21, bylined "Express News Service": Govt plans FIR against journalists for ‘wrong’ report on China:

Even as everyone in the government, including PM Manmohan Singh, is trying to bring down the rhetoric on China, the Home Ministry, in a highly unusual move, is learnt to be planning action against two reporters of a national daily for what the ministry claims was a wrong report about Chinese firing from across the border.

Sources in the Home Ministry said the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which guards the India- China border, had lodged an official complaint with the Delhi Police against the September 15 report that said that two ITBP jawans in northern Sikkim had been injured in firing by Chinese soldiers about a fortnight ago.

Sources said an FIR against the two reporters was being contemplated but they did not have any clarity on the charges that could be brought against the journalists. Delhi Police will take a decision on the charges, the sources said.

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