The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, today condemned the attack on two journalists by the family members and friends of a senior politician on 25 December in New Delhi.
"Attacks on journalists carrying out their task of truth telling are totally unacceptable and represent a curtailment of press freedom," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
Senior Correspondent Esha Roy and Staff Photographer Tanushree Punwani of the Indian Express, Delhi, were working on a story on the ongoing campaign to expose illegal properties owned by Delhi politicians.
The two women journalists were surrounded by a mob outside Raman Properties, operating illegally from a DDA flat and run by Suresh Panghal, the son-in-law of Professor Jagdish Mukhi, Member of the Legislative Assembly from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mukhi is the Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly and among the vocal majority who have been opposing the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's demolition drive against illegal construction in the Capital. The drive followed a Delhi High Court order against such buildings.
The mob abused the two journalists who had managed to get into their vehicle, and demanded to have the photographs back. Upon landing up at the police station to lodge a complaint, the journalists were confronted by about ten car-loads of local traders accompanying Panghal, where they lodged a complaint against the journalists for allegedly demanding bribe of Rs 50,000 to kill the story.
"It is a matter of deep concern that the Station House Officer of the Janakpuri police station Basti Lal Yadav, instead of helping the two journalists, intimidated them further by claiming that the charges were serious, and that they could be arrested," said Warrren.
Roy and Punwani subsequently managed to lodge a formal complaint of assault.
The Indian Express Newspaper Workers' Union has demanded strong action against the culprits for preventing journalists from performing their duty and also against the police officer going out of his way and supporting the culprits rather than coming to the help of the journalists.
"The guilty must be brought to book immediately, to send the message that any interference in journalists' right to investigate a story will not be tolerated," said the IFJ President.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries