Punjab: Akal Takht Jathedar To Host Gathering Of Journalists; Security Agencies On Alert
Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo prepares for a unique meeting of journalists called by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh on Friday to address media censorship and fake news in Punjab; this has put security agencies on high alert.
The crackdown on Waris Punjab De on 18 March resulted in allegations of censorship on some media outlets and journalists in the state.
The Jathedar convened a meeting following a request by Waris Punjab De's leader Amritpal Singh, who is currently on the run, to organise a Sarbat Khalsa on 14 April, Baisakhi.
Sukhdev Singh Phagwara, of the Alliance of Sikh Organisations (ASO), stated that the crackdown has resulted in raids on journalists' houses and seizures of their electronic devices; particularly affecting freelance journalists. ASO is closely assisting Akal Takht Jathedar in hosting this gathering.
The gathering will also address the issue of “fake news and hate speech” in the region. The SGPC has alleged that many Sikh practices have been misrepresented in the national media, leading to misunderstandings and tensions between communities.
According to the report, the sources suggest Amritpal may surrender at a historic gurudwara, like one of the three Takhts in Punjab, but police officials refuse to discuss.
Punjabi Radio host Sukhnaib Sidhu was arrested by Punjab Police for posting a critical video about a man who called for protest against the Punjab Chief Minister's family. He was released the following day without any charges pressed against him. The arrest was made under serious non-bailable Sections.
Sukhdev Singh said: “Censorship of the media was not limited to the Waris Punjab De crackdown. It was widespread, and many journalists had submitted a memorandum to Akal Takht Sahib after their houses were raided by police, and their pages, channels, and social media accounts were blocked. Freelance journalists were the most affected.
"This is why Akal Takht Jathedar decided to convene a gathering of journalists and discuss this extraordinary situation — not only to address the current challenges but also to develop a plan on how to react to such attacks on the media in future.”
He said, “Although most journalists who have faced restrictions and police heat come from the Sikh community, I also know a Hindu journalist called to a police station over a news item. So this gathering is not limited to Sikh journalists. It is an open invitation to all journalists who want to protect Punjab from false propaganda of respective governments. We are hoping for a constructive outcome out of this gathering for healthy journalism in Punjab.”
Recently, the Editors Guild of India had released a statement and expressed deep concern about arbitrary suspension of social media accounts of several journalists and media organisations in Punjab.
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