Northeast Tripura

Tripura issues notice against vernacular newspaper over its COVID reportage

Within 24-hours of Tripura’s journalist’s association demanding Chief Minister Biplab Deb to withdraw his comments, the West Tripura district administration on Monday served a notice to one of the highest circulating newspaper to show evidence regarding a news report.

Deb had during a public meeting at Sabroom in South Tripura said he won’t “forgive” a section of media regarding their reportage on the COVID-19 crisis in the state.

The notice by West Tripura District Magistrate Sailesh Kumar Yadav was issued against Dainik Sambad regarding a news report ‘Swasrista Achalaytane Natukesafar’, authored by Paramita Livingstone published on September 3.

It asked the newspaper authorities to submit documentary evidence based on which the story claimed that the situation at three COVID treatment centers – GBP Hospital, Shahid Bhagat Singh Youth Hostel and Hapania Industry Department auditorium were: ‘indescribable”, or where the newspaper claimed lockdown and curfew wouldn’t be able to prevent or contain COVID-19, or the claim of insufficient PPEs available with the government among other issues.

In the notice, it said that a news item is “totally baseless, concocted and prima-facie published with an objective not only to create panic among the citizens but also to denigrate the fighting spirit of the frontline workers involved in fighting COVID-19 pandemic in Tripura”.

The notice mandated a reply by 5 pm today, failing which the media would be liable to face legal action under provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Replying to the notice, Paramita Livingstone, Managing Editor of the newspaper, said the “tone and tenor of the notice wasn’t acceptable as it had a predetermined notion of the news’s error without considering reply from the media organisation”.

In their response, while denying the charges of violating section 54 of the Disaster Management Act 2006 through the news item, Livingstone said her newspaper has been discharging its public duty and responsibility with diligence,

“This newspaper has not raised false alarm as contemplated under section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2006. This newspaper is very much alive to its duties and responsibilities more specially at present juncture when the lives of common people are at stake due to COVID-19 pandemic…..section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2006 is not at all applicable here”, she said in a statement with the newspaper’s letter head.

The newspaper has also raised question on the validity of the notice as the High Court of Tripura has taken the news items referred in the notice into cognizance and asked for the government’s response on steps taken so far to contain the pandemic by September 18.

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