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The Editors Guild of India has said it is "deeply perturbed" over the government blaming the media in the Supreme Court for causing panic among migrant workers, leading to their exodus in the wake of the lockdown, and asserted that such actions could obstruct the process of dissemination of news.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Guild said that blaming the media at this juncture can only undermine the current work being done by it under trying circumstances.
"The Editors Guild of India is deeply perturbed over the recent government statement before the Supreme Court putting the blame on the media for causing panic among migrant workers leading to their mass movement in the wake of the lockdown," the statement said.
This led the apex court to observe that while it didn't want to inhibit the debate on the pandemic in any way, the media should refer to and publish the official version of the developments pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic, the Guild said in the statement issued Thursday night.
The Guild stated that it holds the court in the highest respect, but finds this advice "gratuitous and unnecessary".
Such charges can also obstruct in the process of dissemination of news during an unprecedented crisis facing the country, it said.
"No democracy anywhere in the world is fighting the pandemic by gagging its media," it said.
The Guild also hit out at the lodging of a First Information Report against the Editor-in-Chief of the website TheWire.
"A police action in the form of an FIR under criminal laws at this stage is an overreaction and an act of intimidation," the Guild said.
Any such intimidation of the media or blaming the media for mass migration of workers will be counterproductive, it said, adding that such actions will be tantamount to disabling the messenger.
"The Guild believes for sure that the media must be responsible, free and fair. But such interference can only undermine those goals," the statement said.
Taking a serious note of the panic caused among migrant workers due to fake news, the top court had earlier this week said it expects the media including print, electronic and social to maintain a strong sense of responsibility and ensure that "unverified news" with regard to coronavirus pandemic is not disseminated.
The Supreme Court had said the migration of a large number of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months.