The Editors Guild of India Thursday condemned the government’s proposition that documents published by the media related to India’s Rafale fighter jet deal with France were “stolen” from the Defence Ministry. The Guild said it was “perturbed” by the government’s threats that criminal action would be initiated against journalists or lawyers who used these documents.
It said any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media would be “as reprehensible as asking the journalists to disclose their sources”, and urged the government against initiating action that might “undermine the media’s freedom and independence”.
In a statement, the Editors Guild said: “Although the Attorney General later clarified that the investigation and contemplated action would not be initiated against journalists or lawyers who used these documents, the Guild is perturbed over such threats. These will intimidate the media in general and curb its freedom to report and commend on the Rafale deal in particular.
“Any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is a reprehensible as asking the journalists to disclose their sources,” it added.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement. pic.twitter.com/zuMotHnXm7
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) March 7, 2019
Attorney General K K Venugopal Wednesday told the Supreme Court that reports published in The Hindu and ANI, based on documents relating to the Rafale deal, cannot be the subject of judicial process as it was a matter of national security. He also said that the government would initiate “criminal action” against the two publications and a lawyer, believed to be Prashant Bhushan, since the matter was of sensitive nature and is covered by the Official Secrets Act.
The Court was hearing a petition — incidentally filed by Bhushan on behalf of himself and former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — seeking review of its December 14, 2018, judgment which dismissed all PILs seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal.