Several journalists in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, donned helments on Wednesday while interviewing Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, days after one of their colleagues was beaten up by suspected BJP workers, NDTV reported. The journalists, sporting helmets, were seen with mics and cameras in their hand at an event addressed by leaders of the saffron party.
On February 2, Suman Pandey was covering an internal review meeting of the BJP’s loss in the recent state Assembly elections when a scuffle broke out between the party leaders. Pandey was beaten up for attempting to record the incident on his phone. He received injuries on the head.
“Rajeev Agarwal [BJP Raipur chief] and another person, Utkarsh Trivedi, told me to delete the video of the scuffle, which I refused,” Pandey had told PTI. “They then started hitting me and forcefully deleted the video.”
Four BJP workers, including Agarwal, were arrested on Saturday night but were released on bail.
Raipur Press Club President Damu Amedare said at least 500 to 600 local reporters joined the protest on Wednesday. “Whether it is an event, press conference, meeting, or even taking a sound byte, we won’t stand for a threat to our safety,” Amedare told The Print. The day before, a bike rally was organised and the protestors reportedly shouted slogans in front of the BJP office.
Agarwal claimed that journalists had been asked to leave after the meeting, but Pandey stayed put. “He was sitting there making videos and was sending [those] to someone,” Agarwal said, according to Newslaundry. “When asked for his identity card, the journalist said he doesn’t have one. When BJP members requested him to delete the video, he refused.”
In the annual World Press Freedom Index 2018, India ranked 138th among 180 countries, slipping down the list for the second straight year.