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Supreme Court Extends Protection To Members Of Editors Guild Against Manipur FIRs

On September 4, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said in a press conference that a police case had been filed on the basis of a complaint against the four and accused them of trying to "provoke clashes" in the state.

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Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court has extended protection from arrest till September 15 to four members of the Editors Guild of India, including its president, in two FIRs lodged against them in Manipur. The matter refers to a report filed by the fact-finding team of the Guild who went to the northeastern state last month to collect information.

The FIRs were filed against EGI President Seema Mustafa and members of the fact-finding team – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor. The EGI's petition sought protection from any coercive action. 

In the previous hearing on September 6, the top court had directed the Manipur Police not to take any coercive steps against them.

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On September 4, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said in a press conference that a police case had been filed on the basis of a complaint against the four and accused them of trying to "provoke clashes" in the state. A second FIR was filed subsequently against the four for defamation.

Manipur has been in the grips of ethnic violence since May 3 when clashes erupted between the state's Meitei and tribal communities after a tribal rally against the proposed scheduled tribe status for the Meitis. Since then, at least 160 people have been killed and several thousand have been displaced, according to official records. 

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The EGI’s fact-finding team for Manipur was there during August 7-10. In its report published on September 2, the team flagged that "the media in Manipur was playing a partisan role in the ongoing ethnic conflict between the majority Meitei community and the Kuki-Chin minority" and said that Manipur media became "Meitei media".

This drew police complaints. "The initial complaint against the EGI president and its three members was filed by Ngangom Sarat Singh, a retired engineer who had worked for the state government. The second FIR was lodged by Sorokhaibam Thoudam Sangita of Khurai in Imphal East district," reported PTI.

The Editors' Guild members were booked under various sections of the IPC including 153A (promoting enmity between two communities), 200 (using false declaration as true), 298 (deliberate intent to wound religious feelings), and under provisions of the Information Technology Act and Press Council Act, reported PTI, adding that the second FIR also has Section 499 (defamation) of IPC added to it.

In July, too, the Manipur government had taken a similar step against a three-member fact-finding team of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) for a report on the ethnic conflict.

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