The Delhi Union of Journalists condemns the selective targeting by Delhi Police of journalists who have reported or commented on the riots in North Delhi and the recent mob attack on three reporters of the Caravan while covering the aftermath of the riots.
The reporters were physically attacked by a communal mob led by a local politician and were eventually rescued by the Police. A young woman reporter faced lewd sexual harassment by the mob and ultimately sheltered in the police station. However, three days after the attacks the Police have not registered an FIR.
On the other hand several journalists have been interrogated in connection with the riots and the anti CAA protests, including Vinod Dua and Prashant Tandon.
Five months after the February riots no action seems to have been taken against those who attacked journalists at the time although several were injured, including Akash Napa of JK 24X7 TV who suffered a gunshot wound and Arvind Gunasekar of NDTV who lost some teeth. Others who had faced attacks were Saurabh Shukla, Mariam Alvi, Sushil Rathee of NDTV, Runjhun Sharma of News 18, Shivnarayan Purohit of Indian Express, Parvina Purkayastha of Times Now and Akshay Kumar Dongare and Tanushree Pandey of Aaj Tak.
The DUJ warns that all such attacks threaten the entire journalist community and are attacks on the freedom of the press and democracy. India’s ranking on the Press Freedom index fell two places to 142 out of 180 countries in 2020, according to the Reporters Without Borders annual index. It is likely to fall further. The impunity with which such attacks and targeting is taking place in the national capital is ominous.
IJU Condemns attack on The Caravan journalists
The Indian Journalists Union strongly condemns the mob attack on three journalists of The Caravan on 11 August in Northeast Delhi while they were reporting on a story concerning a Delhi violence complaint. Worse, the attack had communal overtones and the police at the Bhajanpura station refused to register FIRs against the complaints filed by the journalists. The IJU demands a thorough investigation and the culprits as identified be brought to book.
As per a report in The Caravan, three of its journalists– Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist (name withheld) had gone to Subhash Mohalla, in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood, to follow up about a woman complainant in a case related to the Delhi violence, who had accused police officials at the Bhajanpura police station of beating and sexually assaulting her and her 17-year-old daughter on the night of 8 August. During a follow-up, the three journalists were ‘under attack, subjected to communal slurs, threatened with murder, and sexually harassed’ for around an hour and a half.
The journalists said the report, were taking photographs of ‘saffron flags that had been tied in the area, when some men approached them and told them to stop. One of them, wearing a saffron kurta and had a bandage on his arm, identified himself as a “BJP General Secretary.” Tantray was asked for his identity card and it was then the mob launched their attack upon realising that he was a Muslim. While attempting to get away from the attack, the woman journalist faced sexual harassment from a middle-aged man who exposed himself to her. Later, the mob attacked her as well.’
In statement, IJU President and former Member, Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit, said the assault was an attack on freedom of press and this growing trend of deliberate attack on journalists of a certain community was unacceptable in any democratic society. The journalists were also forced to delete the photographs by the unruly mob, which amounted to gagging the truth from being reported. The IJU recalled that the incident was similar to those experienced by many journalists covering the Northeast Delhi riots in February.
The Union also condemned the role of the police by refusing to file an FIR at the Bhajanpura station police station, after the journalists filed a complaint, saying that the other side too had filed one. This said the IJU was a sad commentary on the rule of law in the country’s national Capital and that there was dereliction of duty. The Union demanded the Delhi Government, the Union Home Ministry and Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry take cognisance of the incident and order a thorough investigation and ensure that the culprits are booked. Inaction would amount to making a mockery of the Government’s claim of India having a free press.