India: Don’t harass journalists, IJU cautions Police25 Mar, 2020
The Indian Journalists Union expresses serious concern over reports of harassment and intimidation by police and security personnel of journalists while they are discharging their duties, keeping the public and authorities informed about the coronavirus situation and even putting their health at risk. While the IJU understands that the police and security personnel are under pressure to ensure the public heeds to lockdown, they must realise that the media too is carrying out its responsibilities, is under great pressure and must be allowed to do its work without any hindrance.
In a statement, IJU President Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit said reports from some State affiliates have come in wherein journalists have shared their harassment at the hands of the police. One such case reported is of Chief of Bureau of a daily in Hyderabad and another in Delhi of a Hindi news channel journalist being ‘beaten’, despite showing their identity cards. In another case, a journalist was fortunately let off in South Delhi after showing her identity card, though the policemen were intimidating.
The IJU demands the government give strict directions to police personnel to respect freedom of press and help journalists in covering the pandemic so that the society gets unbiased and accurate information of the prevailing situation. Noting that none other than the Prime Minister in his address to the nation has thanked the media for its role in helping fighting the unprecedented situation, the IJU said the police musn’t undermine the appreciation and must desist from stopping or harassing the media from reporting as such action will only lead to spread of rumour and fake news, which will only further complicate the situation.
At the same time, the IJU joins some of the newspaper houses who have appealed to people that they should not give credence to exaggerated and false news that newspapers could be carriers of COVID-19. Given that these rumours have no scientific basis and no medical opinion has been cited in this regard, the IJU requests rumour mongers to desist from spreading such fake news and urged people not to stop the newspapers at their homes.
The IJU also urged the journalist fraternity to take all necessary precautions while covering the pandemic as reports emerge that a photo journalist in Lucknow and another senior journalist in Bhopal have tested positive. In the latter case, the journalists who were covering the press meet with him of former Chief Minister have been advised to self-isolate for two weeks. The journalists must adhere to the safety norms prescribed and ensure that these are not set aside in their enthusiasm to report.