Media men vs High Court over Press gag in Meghalaya

Shillong {Meghalaya} Working journalists in Meghalaya have decided to move the Press Council of India and other higher authorities against the recent High Court order which restrained the media from publicising the statements by organisations calling bandhs, strike, hartals, road blockades and also holding rallies.

“We have unanimously decided to move the Press Council of India and the other higher authorities available against the High Court ruling which will have a greater ramification in the role and functions of the media in a democratic state,” Shillong Press Club president D Laitphlang said.

A full bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh, Justice T Nandakumar Singh and Justice S R Sen proscribed the media from carrying statements on agitations with “unlawful design” while responding to a plea made by the Director General of Police, Rajiv Mehta, to restrain media from carrying statements of outlawed HNLC and other organisations calling bandhs and other forms of agitations.

Stating that calling of bandhs infringe on the fundamental rights of the citizens, inter alia, under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the court held the organisers and sponsors of such protests be held liable under the law to recoup and make good the loss and damages.

The Court was hearing a writ petition filed by the Registrar General of the Court against the state government on the effect of a bandh called by HNLC, an outlawed militant outfit, last week.

In response, Meghalaya Police chief Rajiv Mehta said he had no intention to gag the media from publishing statements from organisations calling for shutdowns or rallies in the state, but said he has requested the high court to restrain the press from carrying statements from outlawed groups.

A bench of the Meghalaya High Court comprising Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh, Justice T.N.K. Singh and Justice S.R. Sen had passed an order last week banning the media from publishing statements by organisations that call for shutdowns or rallies, resulting in disruption of normal life.

The order came after the state police chief requested the court to restrain the media from carrying statements by the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) and other organisations calling for shutdowns and other forms of agitations.

“I only requested the court that the media must exercise restraint while reporting about outlawed outfits that is disrupting normal life in the state. I have no intention to gag the media but our attempt is to do the best at our disposal so that normal life is not affected,” Director General of Police Mehta told the media.

“How can a defunct organisation like the HNLC with 30-40 cadres operating from Bangladesh be allowed to call shutdowns and create fear psychosis in the mind and bring the state to a grinding halt?” Mehta asked.

Admitting that it was difficult for police to control if banned organisations use social media or put up posters to publicise their activities, Mehta vowed that police will continue to fight against anti-social elements and ensure that the rule of law prevails.

Militant outfit Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), fighting for a separate Garoland state in western Meghalaya, has said it would put up posters to inform the public whenever it calls for any agitation.

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Posted by on June 4, 2015. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Meghalaya,NORTH EAST. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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