The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and it’s affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) condemn the arbitrary detention and slapping of charges of trespass against journalist Kunal Shankar in Hyderabad, Telangana state in southern India on January 17. The IFJ urges the Indian authorities to refrain from any activities hindering press freedom.
Shankar, the Andra Pradesh and Telengana correspondent with the fortnightly English language magazine Frontline of the Hindu group, was picked up by the university security guards, and handed over to the police from outside the Life Sciences Building of the Hyderabad Central University where he was on assignment to cover a protest marking the first death anniversary of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula. He was taken to Gachibowli Police station through the back gate to avoid the media assembled outside the main gate, and was questioned for an hour before release.
The University filed a case of trespass against Shankar, even though he deposited his driving license and registered his presence at the security gate upon entering the University to cover the protest action.
Amar Devulapalli, Secretary General IJU, condemned the incident and demanded the withdrawal of the case against the journalist. IJU also referred the matter to Press Council of India (PCI), which has taken suo motu cognizance.
“Press Council of India Chairman ... has expressed grave concern over the arrest of Shankar during coverage of news on the campus of Hyderabad Central University and also again imposing restriction on media in the University. The Chairman felt that prima facie, the action of HCU impinges on the freedom of the press,” said a release from the PCI..
The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), in a statement, condemned the action. It said: “Shankar had gone to the university as part of his journalistic duty. Restraining him from doing so, or intimidating him from carrying out his professional duties, amounts to curtailing the freedom of the press. Such attacks on the democratic rights of journalists cannot be tolerated.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is concerned by the detention of a journalist who was in the University of Central Hyderabad to report a protest – neither the police nor the university should bar journalists from reporting an event of public importance. The IFJ urge the Indian authorities to respect the rights of the press and journalists for the free flow of information.”
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