IJU condemns rising attacks on journalists covering protests

NEW DELHI, Dec 21: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned in the strongest of terms the rising police attacks and detention of journalists covering the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act across the nation.
Over a score of journalists in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kashmir, among others, have been deliberated targeted and stopped from reporting the incidents, the IJU stated in a release. “These actions must also be viewed as attacks on the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the constitution,” it said, and demanded that the state governments respect the fourth estate and direct their law enforcing agencies to desist from such brutality.
As per information trickling from across the country, the cases of journalists being targeted include: Nine journalists from major Malayalam channels, including Asianet News, News 24, News 18, and Mathrubumi News were taken into custody in Mangaluru, Karnataka, on Friday, when they were reporting from outside a hospital where postmortem of two men killed in police firing was being done.
Their live reporting was disrupted, they were pushed into a police bus, and made to sit on the floor like criminals, their phones and cameras confiscated and they were held in a police station for three hours before they were handed over to the police at around the Kerala-Karnataka border.
“Nasty treatment was meted out to them despite their showing their ID cards and accreditation. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to write to his Karnataka counterpart Yediyurappa, expressing deep concern and urging him to intervene to get the journalists released,” the IJU said.
In Lucknow, Omar Rashid, a correspondent of The Hindu was detained by the police without any explanation on Friday, despite his repeatedly telling that he was a journalist. Rashid said the police repeatedly brought up his Kashmiri background, accused him of taking part of a violent protest, threatened to beat him and tear his beard out, and asked him to “keep my journalism to myself, in abusive Hindi.”
They accused him of hiding Kashmiris and asked him to reveal their whereabouts. Rashid was released only when the chief minister’s office found out about his detention.
In Delhi, two Mathrubhumi News journalists were injured in police lathi-charge on Friday and their cameras snatched because of the visuals that were captured in it around old Delhi. Earlier on Sunday, police personnel broke the phone of BBC journalist Busra Sheikh, hurled abuses and pulled her hair when she was covering the students protest in Jamia Millia.
In Kashmir, two journalists, Azaan Javaid and Anees Zargar, who were covering a student protest on Tuesday in Srinagar, were targeted by SP (North City) Sajad Shah and his subordinate Rashid Khan even when they disclosed their identities. The incident is recorded in a video, say the journalists, which corroborates their version. A delegation of the Kashmir Press Club met the SSP, who assured action and has ordered a departmental inquiry.
IJU President Geethartha Pathak and Secretary-General Sabina Inderjit said the deliberate targeting of journalists covering the anti-CAA protests is unacceptable in any democratic society.
“It is an attack not only on the freedom of the press but on the right to free speech and expression, guaranteed under the constitution. The fourth estate is only carrying out its rightful duty to report and inform the public and state governments must issue instructions to their police department not to target or harass the media,” they said.
The IJU has also demanded that the state governments take appropriate action against police personnel who have indulged in, and continue to indulge in, harassing and targeting journalists.