The Northeast India Federation of Journalists (NIFJ) has expressed deep concern over the judgment of the Meghalaya High Court holding the Editor and Publisher of The Shillong Times to be contemnors of the court for publishing a report on the judgement of the court over its row with the State Government on withdrawal of perks and facilities for retired judges.
The Court on March 8 asked the Editor Patricia Mukhim and Publisher Shobha Chaudhury of the newspaper to sit in a corner in the court hall until rising of the court and imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh each. If the fine is not paid in a week, they will be imprisoned for six months, the court ordered.
In a statement on Monday, the NIFJ said it was unfortunate that the High Court refused to accept the technical objections of their lawyers and an unconditional apology tendered by the Editor and Publisher and proceeded to punish them. It even went to the extent of imposing a ban on the newspaper if they failed to pay the fine, thus putting scores of jobs at risk as well as curtailing freedom of speech and expression.
“The newspaper published a report on proceedings of the court on perks and facilities to be extended by the State Government to the retired judges after contextualising and giving it a perspective. After reading of the impugned news story, we did not find any malice in it. However, we feel, the reporter should have been more careful in choice of words. It seems, the reaction of the court is disproportionate to the cause of contempt,” the NIFJ statement said.
The NIFJ said, “In course of the judgement, the court also found fault with The Shillong Times for publishing statements issued by some banned outfits. The NIFJ is of the firm opinion that such judicial gags on the press, strike at the root of the fundamental democratic rights of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”