India: Union president harassed by National Investigation Agency

The President of the All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU), Wangkhemcha Shamjai, was summoned and harassed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers on August 2. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU), condemn the harassment of the journalist and urge authorities to respect freedom of the press.

The AMWJU, the Editors Guild Manipur and the Manipur Hill Journalists Union protest against the National Investigation Agency's harassment of the AWMJU president in Imphal, Manipur on August 5. Credit: IJU

On July 31, Shamjai, the Editor-in-Chief of local daily newspaper Kangleipakki Meira, received a phone call summoning him to the NIA office on the morning of August 2 regarding an investigation into two journalists accused of aiding underground insurgent groups.

According to the IJU, on arrival at the office, the journalist was left in a small room for approximately two hours before being interrogated until 5 PM by an NIA officer with “uncomfortable and unrelated queries”. Shamjai said he was also ‘intimidated’ by NIA officers again the following day.

The AMWJU, Editors Guild Manipur and the Manipur Hill Journalists Union held a sit-in demonstration and ceased work on August 5 from 10 AM to 4 PM in Imphal, Manipur in protest of the NIA’s treatment of Shamjai. The media organisations demanded that the NIA cease its harassment of journalists and respect press freedom.

The unions also issued a Memorandum to the Governor and Manipur Chief Minister condemning the NIA’s treatment of Shamjai as an “accused person” and called for an end to the authorities’ arbitrary harassment of media workers without evidence.

The NIA is currently investigating two former members of the AMWJU for their alleged involvement in recruitment for the United National Liberation Front, a banned group under India’s Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. AMWJU has suspended the membership of both journalists for one year.

The IJU said: The harassment of the President of AMWJU, an affiliate, is unacceptable in any democratic society. Expressing solidarity with the media organisations, the IJU said NIA’s actions are a big challenge to the functioning of the media and its independence. IJU joins them in urging the Governor and Chief Minister to look into the matter and take necessary actions to ensure the media fraternity is not further harassed by the NIA or any other investigating agencies in future.”

The IFJ said: The arbitrary harassment and intimidation of journalists and media workers by local authorities gravely undermines both press freedom and democracy.The IFJ condemns the harassment of AMWJU president Wangkhemcha Shamjai and calls for an immediate investigation into the incident.

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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