The FIRs filed against The Wire’s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan are “an overreaction and an act of intimidation,” the Editors Guild of India said in a statement on April 2. The guild also called Supreme Court’s recent direction to the media to publish news about the COVID-19 pandemic from official government sources as “gratuitous and unnecessary”. “No democracy anywhere in the world is fighting the pandemic by gagging its media”, the statement added.

The guild’s statement came after the Uttar Pradesh Police, on April 1, lodged 2 FIRs against Varadarajan for misattributing a statement to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (The Wire corrected its article soon after, and Varadarajan added a tweet clarifying later).

The FIRs against Varadarajan invoked Section 66D of the IT Act, which involves punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource, apart from invoking Sections 188 (disobedience to order issued by a public servant) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code.

“Any such intimidation of the media or blaming the media for mass migration of workers will be counterproductive. Such actions will be tantamount to disabling the messenger”. — Editors Guild of India

The founding editors of The Wire later said that they had not said anything that wasn’t a matter of record, and called the FIRs “a blatant attack on the freedom of the press”.

“Blaming the media at this juncture can only undermine the current work being done by it under trying circumstances. Such charges can also obstruct in the process of dissemination of news during an unprecedented crisis facing the country,” the Guild said.