The Editors Guild on Wednesday demanded the withdrawal of an FIR against the editor of a Kannada daily and its editorial staff for publishing a report about trouble within former prime minister and JDS chief H D Deve Gowda's family.
In a statement, the guild condemned the filing of the first information report (FIR), describing it as an effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression.
"This case is worse, because the FIR is not even filed by the person allegedly affected but by a party-man claiming to be aggrieved. This is a brazen misuse of law and state power," it said.
According to the complaint filed by Janata Dal (Secular) state secretary S P Pradeep Kumar, the newspaper, 'Vishwavani', had published a "false report" last Saturday, which created an impression that there was commotion and confusion among Gowda's grandchildren.
The editor, Vishweshwar Bhat, and the editorial staff were booked on Sunday under Sections 499 (defamation), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code.
The guild strongly condemned the use of criminal defamation and other provisions of the law against the media. It demanded that the Karnataka government must immediately ensure that the FIR is withdrawn.
The misuse of law in this specific case, however, goes way beyond criminal defamation as many IPC provisions have been invoked in what looks like a "motivated and arbitrary" use of power, it said, reiterating its demand that the defamation law should be decriminalised.