The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is horrified by the deaths of three employees from the Tamil daily Dinakaran, a result of violent protests and arson attacks on the newspaper’s office on Wednesday May 9 in Madurai.
According to local reports, computer engineers M Vinod Kumar and G Gopinath, as well as security guard K Muthuramalingam, were victims of a blaze that destroyed the office building shared by newspapers Dinakaran, Tamil Murasu and television station Sun TV.
IFJ President Christopher Warren said the shocking scenes sent a sobering message to the international community.
“This appalling act of violence against Dinakaran is a gross violation on the freedom of speech and media safety in India,” Warren said.
“The deaths of Kumar, Gopinath and Muthramalingam are sad proof that journalists are not the only victims when the press is forcibly silenced; all media workers are at risk,” he said.
The fire was reportedly started by a mob of angry supporters of a faction of the political party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), who hurled petrol bombs and stones.
The mob also ransacked and deliberately locked the building to trap staff inside; the survivors had to break window panes and scale down walls to escape the fire, according to local reports.
The protesters were reportedly demonstrating against the results of a poll conducted by Dinakaran concerning the “political heir” of Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi.
DMK leader MK Azhagiri, who is the son of Karunanidhi, scored only two per cent while his brother MK Stalin, the local administration minister, won the poll with 70 per cent.
“It is abominable that protesters are violently venting their frustrations on the media, the very people they rely on for information during these politically volatile times,” Warren said.
In the aftermath of the attack, 25 people have reportedly been arrested.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries