The Editors Guild of India and the Chandigarh Press Club on Saturday said that the arrest of Times Now journalist Bhawana Kishore by the Punjab Police was a “blatant attack” on press freedom.
On Friday, the police arrested Kishore, her colleague Mrityunjay Kumar and another man Parminder Singh in Ludhiana for allegedly knocking down a woman with their speeding car and verbally abusing her.
The incident happened when Kishore was on her way to cover the inauguration of Aam Aadmi mohalla clinics in Ludhiana by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann.
“The police were clearing the area when the accident happened,” Ludhiana Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Rupinder Kaur Sra told The Indian Express. “The CM’s cavalcade was arriving so we told both the parties to clear the road. They were trying to reach a compromise but it did not happen. An FIR [first information report] was registered after the other woman filed a complaint.”
The complainant alleged that after the accident, the three accused persons entered into an altercation with her and made derogatory caste-based remarks about her, reported the newspaper.
Three of them have been booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and Sections 279 (rash driving), 337 (hurting any person by acting rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) and 427 (commits mischief and thereby causes loss or damage) of the Indian Penal Code.
Kishore, Kumar and Singh were sent to 14-day judicial custody on Friday.
The Editors Guild of India in a statement on Saturday said that established norms were not followed by the Punjab Police while arresting Kishore since no female police officer was at the spot.
“Times Now has claimed that even though she was not driving the car, she was detained by the Punjab Police and taken away in a car by a male cop,” the association said.
The Chandigarh Press Club also said that the action against Kishore was unlawful because she was arrested by a male police official and her family was not informed about it.
“If a person is hit by a car, under which law the passengers have been booked?” the press body asked. “How would one know the caste of the complainant to use derogatory language against their caste? Who among the three used such language to be specific?”
Times Now, on its part, alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab took action against Kishore for reporting that Rs 45 crores were spent in the renovation of Kejriwal’s official residence at Civil Lines in Delhi.
“I demand that Bhagwant Mann, Arvind Kejriwal to release TN Navbharat reporter Bhawana Kishore
immediately,” Times Network Group Editor Navika Kumar wrote on Twitter. “This is serious intimidation of the media.”