India: NUJ(I) writes to Prime Minister against harassment of media persons during COVID- 19 pandemic reporting26 May, 2020
One would believe that in a democracy like India, where the freedom of expression is fortified within its Constitution, the freedom of the press to report without fear would be protected. However, facts prove otherwise. When a Nation ensure freedom of the press and fulfill their commitment towards a free and fair media but recent rising incidents of arrest, false cases against journalists in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra are very much shocking and alarming. It becoming raising question that if the media persons are not allowed to work freely how democracy can function in the country.The National Union of Journalists (India) member International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels has written to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi against the arrest of media persons in COVID- 19 pandemic.
In this regard, Mr.Ras Bihari, President of NUJ(I) had written a serious note to the Prime Minister of India to protect and safeguard the media to ensures independent and unbiased reporting. The President of NUJ(I) had also brought in light of those dangers, how should press freedom react if journalists have been arrested like this. The media can play a vital role to sensitize the public on issues of torture, a crime that thrives in a situation of silence and behind the scenes. Through accurate reporting, journalists can increase awareness about the prevalence of torture but the latest increasing incidents of arrest, false cases against journalists in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra are very much outrageous.
The National Union of Journalists (India) has also written to the Press Council of India to order an inquiry of the entire incidents as these are a threat to democracy.
Details of the cases :
1. In Tamil Nadu a reporter of Sathyam TV, Mr. Bhaskar, sustained serious injuries in an attack by police personnel at Krishnagiri of Tamil Nadu. His cameras were taken away by authorities. Another reporter of SUN TV, Mr. Damodaran, was arrested at Minjur of Thiruvallur District of TN on April 8, 2020 while on duty. He was also remanded into judicial custody. Our NUJ(TN) unit has informed that various incidents of harassment of media persons came into the light where several journalists were taken into custody under the Epidemic disease Act. Mr. A.S.R. Pandian, founder, and publisher of the news website “Simplicity” publishing from Coimbatore District of TN was arrested and remanded to judicial custody. Another two Journalists of the same news portal were detained at a Police station and subjected to prolonged questioning.
2. In Gujarat as per media reports, Dhaval Patel, editor, and owner of the news portal – ‘Face of the Nation’ – was detained and later on arrested by Gujarat Police for publishing an article allegedly against Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. In the article, the editor, while analyzing different situations and developments, articulated that Mr. Rupani likely to be replaced by Union Minister Mansukh Mandviya as the top bosses of the BJP were unhappy with his Covid-19 pandemic management.
3.In Himachal Pradesh 14 FIRs against five reporters during the lockdown period. Nalagarh-based Jagat Bains, who reports for News 18 Himachal and BBN Real News, has been booked thrice by Baddi police. – In neighboring Baddi, Om Sharma, a former reporter at Divya Himachal, has also been booked thrice — Vishal Anand, a reporter for Aaj Tak, has two FIRs against him, both registered on the complaint of Dalhousie SDM.
4. In Jammu & Kashmir the police in the Bandipora district arrested Mushtaq Ganaie, a reporter with the English-language privately held Daily Kashmir Observer, on allegations of obstructing police, violating the COVID-19 lockdown, and spreading the virus.
5. In Maharashtra, a mob in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district attacked Balasaheb Navgire, a freelance reporter, after he reported on a family that was quarantined due to COVID-19. Rahul Kulkarni, a reporter with Marathi-language privately held news channel ABP Majha, for alleged “rumor-mongering,” according to the Indian Express. The arrest stemmed from Kulkarni’s reporting that railways may open new trains for migrants stuck in large cities.
6. In UP, Uttar Pradesh government has filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Today 24 news journalist Ravindra Saxena for his report highlighting the mismanagement of a quarantine center in the Sitapur district. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists- India condemn the FIR on false accusations and call on the UP government to withdraw the criminal proceedings against the journalist.
We, the National Union of Journalists (India) urges that Government of India to ask authorities for inquiring of the entire incidents as these are a threat to democracy. The protection of the media ensures independent and unbiased reporting, which pledges transparency in a democracy.