The Editors Guild of India on Friday issued an advisory to the media against using terms like “Khalistanis” and “anti-nationals” to describe the farmers protesting against the Centre’s agriculture laws.
In a statement, the association expressed concern about the news coverage of the protests. It said using such terms, without any evidence or proof to back the claims, delegitimises the agitation.
“This goes against the tenets of responsible and ethical journalism,” the statement said. “Such actions compromise the credibility of the media. EGI advises media organisations to display fairness, objectivity, and balance in reporting the farmers’ protests, without displaying partisanship against those who are exercising their constitutional rights to express themselves.”
The editors’ association said that media houses should not be complicit to any narrative that derogates dissent or “stereotypes protestors based on their attire and ethnicity”.
The advisory came after a number of media reports, since the protests started last week, suggested that the farmers have been “misled” or “brainwashed”. The reports also raised questions on the possible involvement of the separatist Khalistani group in the agitation. This has been amplified by many news channels.
The protestors have also voiced their displeasure on the matter and complained that the media coverage is unfair.
Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have also levelled similar allegations, without citing any evidence. The party’s Information Technology cell head Amit Malviya and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have termed sections of the agitators as “Khalistanis” and “Maoists”. Another leader of the saffron party, Manoj Tiwari, on Thursday claimed that the “tukde-tukde gang” was trying to turn the demonstrations by farmers in Delhi into Shaheen Bagh-like protests. The term is often used by BJP and Hindutva leaders for individuals and groups, who they claim, have secessionist intentions.
On Thursday, Twitter labelled one of Malviya’s posts on the farmer protest as “manipulated media”. This was the first instance of the social networking site calling out alleged fake news in India.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for the ninth consecutive day on Friday to reverse the agricultural legislations, which they fear could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.