Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Friday threatened to take action against certain media houses for allegedly spreading “fake news” about the coronavirus situation in the state, reported NorthEast Now.

“Some newspapers are publishing confusing news related to Covid-19 medical management,” Deb said at the foundation stone laying ceremony for a Special Economic Zone at Sabroom, 130 km from state capital Agartala. “Neither history will forgive them nor will I forgive them. These media houses and newspapers are spreading fake news and scaring people.”

Deb also claimed that the media was confusing people of Tripura with their “overexcited reporting”. Union minister Piyush Goyal also attended the ceremony via video conference.

The Forum for Protection of Media and Journalists has condemned the chief minister’s comments. “In the past, newspapers and journalists working in Tripura had a confrontation with the government but for the past two years, the state has tried to turn the media into a slave,” the statement read, according to NDTV. “With several notices and orders, the freedom of press has been infringed upon. Social media has been used to malign journalists and the chief minister’s office has been involved.”

The association has also called a meeting of journalists in Agartala on Sunday. The group’s chairman said that the chief minister’s public threat had caused a “deep sense of insecurity”. “We did not experience such an environment of insecurity even during days of Emergency,” the statement read.

The chief minister’s remarks came after his administration drew heavy criticism for its management of the coronavirus crisis. On Friday, the Tripura High Court sought reports from the state government over measures taken to tackle the coronavirus crisis within a week or before September 18. “Recent newspaper reports particularly published in vernacular language have reported the plight of patients and relatives of those who have tested positive,” the court said. “Certain shortcomings in public healthcare system are projected.”

Tripura’s first Special Economic Zone

Meanwhile, addressing the ceremony, the chief minister said that the state earlier “survived on a single lifeline”, reported The Indian Express. “With this SEZ and a forthcoming Integrated Check Post here, Sabroom will become the commerce capital of North East India and gateway to South Asia,” he said. “This SEZ will generate employment, contribute in developing Atmanirbhar [self-reliant] Tripura.”

The special economic zone is being built at an estimated cost of Rs 635 crore and will be set up at Paschim Jalefa village in Sabroom. The zone, which received approval from the commerce and industries ministry in December would focus on four sectors, including agro-based processing.

Deb said the SEZ is likely to provide employment to around 5,000 youths, while preliminary estimates suggest a scope of 12,000 skilled jobs. He added that farmers and traders would get benefits from the economic zone as it would facilitate import and export.