Journalists attacked, intimidated and humiliated across India Why are the authorities mum?

09, Apr 2022 | CJP Team

A photograph of a group of men, stripped down to their underpants, fear and humiliation visible on their faces, taken inside what appeared to be a police station, recently went viral on social media. Even at a casual glance at the photograph it was clear that the men were being humiliated and punished for something in that police station. However the horrific reality was that among those men being subjected to this inhumane treatment in Madhya Pradesh was Kanishka Tewari, a journalist who has alleged that the police had targeted him for a news story he had filed, reportedly against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA.

The journalist and YouTuber, has alleged he was abused, beaten up and asked to strip by some police personnel when he went to cover a protest against a local BJP MLA. According to news reports, this happened on Saturday in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district. The journalist had gone to cover a protest against the arrest of theatre artist Neeraj Kunder, allegedly for making “indecent remarks” against BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla and his son Guru Dutt Shukla using a fake Facebook profile.

However the men, including the journalist and theatre artists who were protesting were arrested, and stripped down to their underwear inside the police station.

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has issued a statement putting on record its shock and outrage in “the manner in which the police of Sidhi district, Madhya Pradesh, arrested, stripped, and humiliated a local journalist as well as some members of the civil society” on April 2, 2022, in retaliation against protest and associated news coverage of the arrest of another member of civil society. The EGI stated that the “police shot pictures of the journalist and activists and released them on social media in order to shame and humiliate them” adding that even though the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan “has suspended the cops and ordered an inquiry into this horrendous case,” this is another an example of the “increasing tendency of the police and local administration to brazenly attack and intimidate journalists is extremely disturbing and needs to be checked.”

The Press Club of India (PCI) and the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) too issued a statement condemning “the reprehensible manner in which journalists were stripped in a police station in Seedhi in MP.” They urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take suo motu action in the matter.

According to the EGI, another incident was reported from Odisha on April 7, where the police of Balasore district allegedly “chained a journalist’s leg to a hospital bed after an alleged case of assault.” The journalist Loknath Delai, though, claims that he was arrested in response to his reporting of corruption by the police and various irregularities in their affairs. The EGI stated that “the inhumane manner in which journalists, stringers, and district reporters are often treated by the police, in an effort to suppress any independent reporting is a matter of grave concern.”

The Editors Guild of India has urged the Union Home Ministry to “take immediate cognisance of police excesses against journalists and civil society members, and issue stern directions to all levels of law enforcement agencies to respect democratic values and freedom of press. At the same time strict action needs to be taken against those who misuse state power.”

From Madhya Pradesh, journalist Kanishka Tiwari, told the media that both he and his camera person were arrested and charged with several sections, including trespassing and disturbance of public peace. “Why are you running stories against the MLA?” he was allegedly asked by the police, reported NDTV. Tiwari said he, and the others seen in the photo were all “kept in police custody for 18 hours” adding that “police took us into custody at around 8 P.M on April 2 and released us at 6 pm on April 3.”

 According to news reports, the now viral photo, Tiwari said was “clicked by the in-charge of the police station, Abhishek Singh Parihar.” He alleged that Parihar, “threatened us to parade naked in the city if we run the story. The police made the post viral. This is a violation of our human rights.”

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) announced a DUJ Committee for Communal Harmony on April 5, 2022 to foster peace and amity. At its executive committee meeting, the DUJ condemned the attack on journalists at Burari ground where an unlawful Hindu Mahapanchayat meeting was held on April 3. Reporters recorded the hate speeches during this event until the mob attacked the group. Forcing them to delete the videos, the crowd beat two Muslim journalists Arbab Ali and Meer Faisal and molested a woman journalist.

An FIR has been filed under Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC, in this case. The other journalists attacked included The Quint’s principal correspondent Meghnad Bose, Meer Faisal, of The Hindustan Gazette, photojournalist Mohd Meherbaan, freelance journalist Arbab Ali, and a fifth journalist, who wished to remain anonymous. The five journalists were taken to the Mukherjee Nagar police station. According to the report, an FIR under IPC sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) have been registered in relation to this incident.

The Press Club of India had also condemned the attack on journalists and demanded that the accused be arrested .The club also condemned the arrest of three journalists in UP’s Ballia who had reported the class 12 English paper leak case.

 

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