Journalists came under attack while covering the communal violence rocking northeast Delhi since Sunday, February 23. Several have been hospitalised after being punched and attacked by communal mobs, where police were reported as being absent or ineffective. Reports also suggested mob members were checking religious credentials of the journalists covering the protests. Television media were particularly targeted in the attacks.
Akash Napa, a reporter for JK 24x7 News TV channel, was shot while reporting in Maujpur and admitted to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in Dilshad Garden, North East Delhi. According to JK 24x7 News TV, Napa’s condition is serious. Other journalists injured were Arvind Gunasekar, Saurabh Shukla, Mariyam Alavi and Sushil Rathi. Gunasekar lost several teeth after being punched in the face. Gunasekar and Shukla were attacked while filming a mosque being set on fire. NDTV’s Mariyam Alavi and camera person Shushil Rathi were attacked while covering a violent protest. According to NDTV, members of the mob slapped NDTV journalist Akshay Kumar Dongare and tried to snatch his microphone and mobile while he was reporting the protest on February 24. According to IJU, the number of journalist attacked during the unrest is expected to be far greater than has been reported.
Apart from the direct attacks, the IJU said footage and photographs taken by journalists on their cell-phones were also deleted. Journalists posted stories to social media confirming that they were repeatedly asked by the protestors to disclose their religious identities.
During earlier protests to the CAA in December 2019, Indian police detained, abused and attacked scores of journalists covering protests in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kashmir who were covering the protests
Within the three days of the outbreak of the communal violence on February 23, at least 13 people have been killed, including the head constable of Delhi Police. Nearly 150 people have been injured in in northeast Delhi including Bhajanpura, Maujpur, Wazirabad, Jaffrabad, Babarpur, Vijay Park, Yamuna Vihar and Gokulpuri.
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) said: “The attack to journalists is an attack to the freedom of the press. IJU appeals all the concerned to respect the neutrality of journalists and their rights. The IJU demands insurance and adequate compensation to the journalists injured and for the equipment damaged by the rioters. At the same time, the IJU appreciates the journalists for their courage and determination to report the facts under the most trying circumstances”.
The NUJ(I) said: “We request the Government of India to probe into incidents and punish the guilty. These incidents re-establish the justification of promulgation of enactment of Journalists Protection Act as demanded by NUJ(I)".
The IFJ said: “For journalists to be attacked forced to reveal their religious identity and systematically prevented from reporting is unacceptable. The IFJ condemns the communal violence and harassment of journalists who have put themselves at risk to protect democracy and the free press. The IFJ calls on the government to recognise these attacks as more than an attack on reporters, but an attack on freedom of expression”.