The Editors Guild of India on Sunday said the Karnataka assembly’s decision to sentence two journalists to prison is a “gross misuse” of power and “violates” the fundamental right of freedom of speech.
Two journalists were recently sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of Rs 10,000 each by the Assembly. They were accused of writing “defamatory” articles about the Speaker and a few members of the legislature, including a member of the House Privileges Committee, that had recommended the punishment, the Guild said.
“The Guild opines the decision violates the fundamental right of freedom of speech guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and the freedom of the press,” it said in a statement. Stating that it is a “gross misuse of the powers and privileges of a state legislature”, the Guild urged the Assembly to withdraw its resolution “without delay”.
“The Editors Guild of India is of the firm view that journalists must have the freedom to write critical articles against all such elected representatives of the country and hold them accountable without fear or favour,” it said. The Guild said, the right to try and sentence journalists for defamation vests with the courts of law and the Karnataka Legislative Assembly “cannot and should not misuse” its powers and privileges to conduct a trial and sentence any member of the press for libel.
The privileges of the Assembly, under which this action is taken, is not even codified, it said. “The Guild hopes that wisdom will prevail and the Karnataka Legislative Assembly will immediately take corrective measures and withdraw its pernicious resolution against the two journalists,” it added.