The Editors Guild of India on Monday issued a statement condemning a recent incident where an officer of the Uttar Pradesh government assaulted a journalist while he was covering local body elections in the state.

“Editors Guild of India is deeply disturbed by the continuing trend of heavy-handedness by the state authorities in Uttar Pradesh with respect to journalists and media,” the organisation said.

On Saturday, a video was widely circulated on social media, where Divyanshu Patel, the Chief Development Officer of Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district, could be seen beating up a local journalist. Patel attacked the journalist after he filmed the government officer allegedly helping kidnap local council members to stop them from voting, NDTV reported.

However, the journalist, Krishna Tiwari, did not name Patel in his written complaint to the police, according to Hindi daily Navbharat Times. A First Information Report has been registered in the matter, but it mentions that the journalist was attacked by unidentified men. Patel reportedly apologised to Tiwari and photos of them exchanging sweets were circulated on Sunday.

The Editors Guild noted that the state administration’s approach was hurting democratic rights of the media, which was crucial ahead of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh next year.

“This incident has come against the backdrop of increased persecution of journalists in the state of UP, as the administration has punished, penalized and incarcerated journalists in an effort to intimidate them from freely reporting on crimes, state excesses and the management of pandemic,” the Editors Guild said.

It also referred to the case of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been in prison in Uttar Pradesh since October for trying to report on the Hathras gangrape case. The police claimed that Kappan was arrested because he was going to Hathras as part of a conspiracy to create law and order trouble and foment caste riots.

The attack on Tiwari in Unnao was not an isolated incident as violence was reported in at least 18 districts of Uttar Pradesh during local body elections on Saturday. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party claimed victory in 635 out of 825 posts of block panchayat heads even as the Opposition Samajwadi Party accused the state government of misusing its administrative machinery to “forcefully capture” the seats.

The block panchayat elections came a week after BJP swept the elections to the posts of district panchayat chief in the state, winning 67 of 75 seats. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had pointed out that it was strange that while most results in the elections for the Zila Panchayat members were in favour of his party, the BJP secured victory in the polls for the district panchayat chief.