The Mumbai journalists’ union and the Network of Women in Media, India, on Wednesday condemned the alleged physical assault on three journalists working for The Caravan in North East Delhi on Tuesday. One of the reporters was allegedly sexually harassed.
Two of the reporters were identified as Prabhjit Singh and Shahid Tantray. Along with a woman colleague, they were reporting on communal tensions that broke out in the area on the night of August 5, following the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. A group celebrating the Ram temple event had allegedly shouted anti-Muslim slogans and placed saffron flags on the gates of Subhash Mohalla that day.
The Delhi Police is yet to register a case in connection with the incident.
The Network of Women in Media, India, called the incident a “setback to press freedom”. “The physical attack on all the three journalists and the sexual harassment of the woman journalist, while reporting, are serious assaults and represent a setback to press freedom,” the network said in a statement. “This incident is a chilling indicator of the grave risks to on-ground reporting that journalists in India have been facing, even in the national capital.”
The network said it has learnt that one of the journalists, Shahid Tantray, was targeted for his Muslim identity, and had to be rescued from a lynch mob. The other journalist, Prabhjit Singh, said in his statement that had he not been present, the mob would have lynched Tantray.
“In a shocking and reprehensible attack, the third reporter was sexually harassed and physically assaulted,” the network said. “After the mob began attacking her, she managed to extricate herself and escape to a neighbouring lane. The mob surrounded her and took her pictures and videos without her consent, and verbally harassed her. A man, part of the mob, exposed his genitals to her, shook his penis and made lewd facial expressions at her.” It added that the mob attacked the woman again when she tried to flee to the police station, and hit her on her head, arms, hips and chest.
The network said that while the local police managed to take the journalists to the Bhajanpura Police Station, they did not register a first information report. It said the incident raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in India.
“The incident demonstrates the impunity enjoyed by political groups,” the Network for Women in Media, India said. “These physical attacks are part of the ongoing trend to promote self-censorship, as it could act as a deterrent to journalists from seeking the truth, reporting from the ground, and doing their duty.” The network demanded that the police immediately register an FIR, begin an investigation and take immediate action against the mob.
Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists
The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists also demanded that the police file an FIR. The union said it was “shocked at the brutal attack”, according to its statement published in The Caravan.
“The BUJ strongly condemns the assault and deplores the breakdown of law and order in the national capital,” the union’s General Secretary Indrakumar Jain said. “It is shocking and reprehensible that no FIR has been lodged as yet by Delhi police, according total impunity to those who perpetrated this dastardly attack.”
The union said that the inaction of the police bodes ill for law and justice in the national Capital. “That it should happen to journalists who are on the field is an indication of the chilling disregard the administration has towards the media and its work in investigating and reporting on issues,” it said. The union added that it stands in solidarity with the journalists, and will continue to fight for the rights of all journalists.