DIMAPUR, Feb 13: Four Mon MLAs have reacted sharply to Kohima Press Club (KPC) statement which defended NEPS news report over possible bifurcation of Mon district into two published in local dailies February 10.
Stating to clear the air of “misinterpretation of our intention”, the MLAs – E.E. Pangteang, Naiba Konyak and C.L. John in a statement said whilst they acknowledged the freedom of speech/press as a democratic and fundamental right, the freedom of the press did not mean “dictatorship of the press.”
It may be mentioned that Kohima Press Club (KPC) on Thursday, while drawing attention to a news report “Mon MLAs summon NEPS”, termed as “unfortunate” the MLAs action. The KPC said it was unfortunate that on the part of democratically elected members of the people to summon the editor of North East Press Service (NEPS), Oken Jeet Sandham.
“It is nothing but strangulation or direct assault on the Freedom of Press enshrined in the Constitution,” stated a press release issued by KPC president K. V Nurumi and general secretary Khriezovonuo Lhoungu.
On February 7, the four MLAs from Mon district, in reaction to report filed by NEPS on possibility of bifurcation of Mon district into two, had directed NEPS’s Oken Jeet Sandham to meet them in person to clarify the news.
The KPC representatives said they, as members of press fraternity, function in a democratic norm of Fourth Estate, and always insist on expressing “diverse views on any subject of public importance.”
They also said that four MLAs have every right to express their views/opinions on the matter. But it is unfortunate on their part to summon NEPS editor, KPC added.
With regard to disclosure of source from NEPS, the KPC said no one can force a reporter/correspondent to disclose his/her source(s).
“It is the norms and ethics in the functioning of the Press,” they said.
According to KPC the NEPS editor, in its meeting, had expressed desire to issue clarification particularly on the news item.
However, the KPC said since he was not allowed to furnish any clarification by the MLAs, it has decided that he would not meet the MLAs “under any circumstances.”
The MLAs in a statement yesterday said their intention was about accountability to citizens by the media through “responsible journalism”. They said NEPS report had the tendency to create “sectarianism and tension among the public”, which they stated, could lead to law and order problem.
The MLAs also denied the KPCs assertion that they had denied NEPS the privilege to issue clarification. “The question of denying the writer the privilege of clarification does not basically arise,” the Mon MLAs said.
Further, whilst admitting that the usage of word “direction” in their earlier statement must have hurt the sentiments of the writer or the press fraternity, the MLAs, however, said the report “equally and deeply” hurt their sentiments and the people of the responsible area.
The MLAs also conveyed to the KPC that their purpose was to seek clarification from Oken Jeet Sandham personally since the nature of the report involved “a high volume of misinformation with tendencies to create intentional implications in the governmental establishments and the people thereof.” Also, taking on KPC’s stand that no one can force a reporter/correspondent to disclose his/her source/s, the MLAs said: “people have equal rights to correct information and refute false and misleading information”.