The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the attacks on Hindsat journalist, Afzal Khan, in Bhopalpatnam, Chhattisgarh on November 15 by the anti-Maoist group, Salwa Judum, including public humiliation, threats against the journalist and his family, and physical assault.
On November 15, at a public meeting in a high school in Bhopalpatnam, the leaders of Salwa Judum over the loudspeaker called Khan, his brother Jansatta journalist, Zar Khan, and other journalists, to the stage and reportedly threatened them by accusing them of providing logistical support to stop Salwa Judum entering the area.
Later that day, Khan was summoned to meet Salwa Judum leaders and Special Police Officers, who accused him of writing anti-Salwa Judum stories and who then proceeded to beat and threaten him, resulting in fractures in his hand and head injuries.
Khan and his family face being forced to move out of Bhopalpatnam, following an announcement again through a loudspeaker by Salwa Judum threatening that they would be killed if they do not join Salwa Judum.
"This blatant attempt to silence journalists through humiliation, intimidation and direct attack is a clear indication of deep lack of respect for press freedom in India, particularly in Chhattisgarh," IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
The attack followed a November 14 Salwa Judum rally of more than 20,000 people in Bhopalpatnam.
According to local reports, Salwa Judum leaders later called Khan to see the effigy burning of anti-Salwa Judum leaders before beating him, apparently in retaliation for a news item published on November 9 by in the local press by the Raipur correspondents, saying Salwa Judum were not welcome in the area.
"This deplorable behaviour of suppressing journalists' activities by using violence must be stopped immediately to ensure that journalists may operate freely and independently," the IFJ President said.
Several journalists have reportedly written to the Chief Minister of Chattisgarh and to the police, calling for immediate action to bring the attackers to justice and demanding security for Afzal Khan.
The IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists over 115 countries, supports these calls in the strongest terms.
"There is no true democracy without truly free press, and a free press can only be fostered in an environment where journalists are safe and free," Warren said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries