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The Editors Guild of India has expressed deep shock as the Tripura Police booked 102 people, including journalists, under the “coercive” Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for “reporting and writing” on the recent communal violence in the state.

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Expressing dismay over the action taken by the Tripura Police, the Editors Guild said: “This [development] comes a few days after the police had filed UAPA charges against some Delhi-based lawyers who had visited Tripura as part of an independent fact-finding enquiry commission into the communal violence. One of the journalists, Shyam Meera Singh, has alleged that he has been booked under UAPA for merely tweeting ‘Tripura is burning’. This is an extremely disturbing trend where such a harsh law, where in the processes of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence.”

The Editors Guild alleged that the move was an “attempt by the state government to deflect attention away from its failure to control majoritarian violence”.

It further demanded that there should be a free and fair investigation into the circumstances of the riots instead of “penalising journalists and civil society activists”.

It also reiterated its demand to the Supreme Court to take cognisance of the way in which stringent laws like the UAPA are “unjustifiably used against freedom of speech”. The Editors Guild asked the apex court to issue guidelines on stringent laws under which journalists can be charged so that the legal apparatus cannot be misused for “suppressing freedom”.

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The Tripura Police has booked 102 people in connection with the recent communal violence in the state. It also asked Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share details of more than 100 accounts who allegedly published fake news related to the violence.

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