The Press Council of India (PCI) on Friday in Guwahati asked the Assam Rifles, editors of three Nagaland-based newspapers and the state government to “meet and seek to resolve” the issues arising out of a notice issued by the para-military force to the editors in October allegedly infringing upon the freedom of the press.
“It is agreed that all the stakeholders (Editors, the state government and Assam Rifles) shall meet and seek to resolve the issues bearing in mind the larger national interest and need to preserve the freedom of the Press,” the Press Council said after conducting a hearing on Friday in which all the three sides took part.
The editors, Assam Rifles and the Nagaland government were also directed to place a report to it on the outcome of their deliberations. No deadline was however fixed by the PCI for the three stakeholders. The Press Council, which had taken suo moto cognizance of the Assam Rifles notice to the Nagaland media, had also sent a notice to the state government.
While three editors – Monalisa Changkija of Nagaland Page, Newimai Wobithou of Eastern Mirror and Akum Longchari of Morung Express – appeared before the Press Council during its meeting on Friday, an official of the Assam Rifles and another of the Nagaland government also placed their views before it.
It was on October 24 this year that the Assam Rifles, the country’s oldest para-military force engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland under the command of the Army, had issued a notice to three newspaper editors of the state accusing them of extending support to the NSCN(K), a banned outfit, by way of carrying their press releases. The Assam Rifles had particularly pointed at certain news items and said that those “can be construed as providing support to an Unlawful Association.”
While the Assam Rifles notice had also asked the DGP of Nagaland as well as the state home department to take suo moto cognizance on the alleged violation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 by the three newspapers, the editors in turn not only dismissed the allegations as unfounded, but also described it as an attempt to gag the press. Three newspapers also carried blank editorials coinciding the National Press Day on November 16 as a mark of protest.