The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) expresses deep shock at the attacks on two Tripura journalists and the legal notice to a local daily, following open threats to the media by Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb.
Chief Minister Biplab Deb had issued a direct threat to the media, objecting to their reporting on the rapid spread of Covid 19 in Tripura. He said, “Some newspapers are trying to confuse people, getting all over-excited. History will not forgive them, I shall not forgive them either.”
Within 24 hours of this threat two journalists were assaulted. Parashar alias Pinku Biswas, who works for the Bengali daily Syandan Patrika, was badly beaten up in his own house. He had just recovered from Covid-19 and had made a Facebook video critiquing the chief minister’s comments on the media. He has severe injuries and is in hospital.
On the same day, Ashok Dasgupta, a television reporter from Belonia of South Tripura, was allegedly roughed up by some locals after he tried to cover drinking water shortage at Matai village. In both cases local journalists blame BJP workers for the attacks.
On Sept 14, the daily Dainik Sambad received a notice from a local district magistrate claiming that a news item carried by it 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 legal notice has been issued under provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The daily’s woman editor Paramita Livingstone, who wrote the article, had critiqued the government’s measures to contain the pandemic, the poor state of three treatment centres, shortage of PPEs and other lacunae. She has denied the charges and the matter has also been taken up by the High Court.
Tripura has nearly 20,000 Covid 19 cases and over 200 deaths, the highest in the North East.
The Delhi Union of Journalists supports the journalists’ unions and the Tripura Assembly of Journalists (TSA) who have demanded, at a press conference held at the Agartala Press Club, that the Chief Minister withdraw his controversial remarks. We demand compensation for the injured journalist and withdrawal of the legal notice against Dainik Sambad.
We condemn the growing number of attacks on media persons who have been reporting the pandemic and its fallout, braving the risk of contracting the disease. We demand risk insurance cover and compensation for all affected journalists and their families.