IFJ Urges Action After Two Media Offices Attacked in India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is

shocked by the political intolerance on display in India, with two attacks on

television studios in the country on July 16.

 

In the

first incident, the premises of news channel Headlines Today were attacked in

the capital, Delhi.

The second incident took place in the distant city of Kolhapur

in the western state of Maharashtra, where the

studios of Zee 24 Taas, a news channel broadcasting in the local Marathi

language, were ransacked as a talk show on a border dispute with the

neighbouring state of Karnataka was aired.

 

According

to reports from IFJ affiliates, a mob of 3000 people gathered in a busy area of

Delhi on the

evening of July 16 and sought to force its way into the Headlines Today

building. Lifts were disabled and stairways blocked by security personnel, preventing

the crowd from entering the office on an upper floor. Attackers caused

extensive damage in the building foyer and paralysed all routes of entry and

exit for more than two hours. A Headlines Today cameraman was assaulted and

some workers at commercial facilities in the building were injured.

 

IFJ

sources report the mob consisted of volunteers and leaders of the Rashtriya

Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist body, some of whose high-placed

office-holders were recently implicated in media reports, including one by

Headlines Today, for alleged involvement in bombings across the country.

 

The

Headlines Today broadcast on July 14 relied on hidden cameras and the so-called

“sting” technique. Its basic message underlined the findings of several news reports

in the daily press in recent days, notably in the Mail Today, a daily

newspaper owned by the same media group as Headlines Today. According to

sources, the offices of the Mail Today, which are located in the same

building, could also have been the target of the attack.

 

“The IFJ

is shocked that an incident of this sort could happen in Delhi,

so close to the administrative hub of India’s capital,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“We call

upon authorities in Delhi

to bring to account all those who led and participated in this incident. With

the more prominent leaders of this attack on press freedom already identified

by witnesses, there is no excuse for inaction.”

 

The IFJ is

encouraged by the virtually unanimous condemnation of the incident by all

concerned bodies, including the Delhi Union of Journalists, a constituent unit

of IFJ affiliate the Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU).

 

The second

incident in Kolhapur involved cadre of the Shiv

Sena, a far right nationalist grouping that once was the leading partner in the

ruling coalition in Maharashtra state. Maharashtra has long been involved in a dispute with

neighbouring Karnataka state over the disposition of the district of Belgaum,

which it claims.

 

The attack

on the Zee 24 Taas studios occurred at 9.45 pm during the broadcast of a talk

show which included spokesmen for the case of Karnataka.

 

Five

people were injured, including two news staff. The IFJ understands that 11 of

the political cadre involved in the attack surrendered to police the following

day and were released on bail fixed at a nominal INR 15,000 (USD 315).

 

“The IFJ

urges authorities in Maharashtra to pursue

those responsible for this outrageous attack on free speech,” Park said.

“Yielding to the political convenience of the moment could have serious

consequences for the future of media freedom in India.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific