India: Five media houses attacked in Tripura during unofficial BJP rally

The premises of two television channels, PB 24 News and Duranta TV, and three daily newspapers, Pratibadi Kalam, Kalmer Shakti and Daily Deshar Katha, were vandalised during an unauthorised Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rally in Tripura on September 8. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliates the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and the National Union of Journalists India (NUJ-I) condemn these attacks to media organisations and demand the immediate apprehension of all perpetrators.

The offices of five media organisations in Tripura were vandalised on September 8. Credit: NewsClick

The BJP vice-president Rajib Bhattacharjee led a rally that turned violent following a clash with supporters of the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM), resulting in damages to the five media houses.

During the skirmish four journalists, including Duranta TV’s anchorperson Prasenjit Saha and Daily Desher Katha’s reporter Partha Sarathi Deb, sustained injuries.

The BJP state president Manik Saha claims that BJP cadres mistakenly entered the offices of Pratibadi Kalam and Kalmer Shakti while attempting to vandalise CPIM headquarters and the Daily Desher Katha’s premises, which serves as the mouthpiece of the CPIM. Saha argued that BJP protestors acted in retaliation after stones and bricks were thrown at them by CPIM supporters.

Anal Roy Chowdhury, the editor of Pratibadi Kalam, informed media that the rally entered his office in an organised way, equipped with arms and lathis (heavy bamboo sticks), and proceeded to disable the CCTV, vandalise the office and abuse journalists. The vehicles of the journalists parked outside the office were also burned.

On September 9, Tripura journalists organised a protest in front of Tripura Police headquarters, demanding the immediate arrest of the offenders. A joint journalist delegation also met Inspector General Arindam Nath, requesting that the investigation be expedited.

Following the attack, Chowdhury lodged a first information report (FIR) against the assailants. “All papers and documents, computers, and CCTV cameras were destroyed while a huge contingent of police remained silent spectators and did nothing. The goons were armed with lathis and sharp-edged deadly weapons and one of our journalists, namely Prasenjit Saha, was hit on the back of his head by a sharp-edged weapon and injured seriously,” the FIR reads.

Other media houses also vandalized during the BJP rally are yet to formally lodge their complaints.

The Indian government frequently uses many tactics to silence the media and obstruct press freedom, including attacks on media organisations. According to the IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2020- 2021, a total of four attacks and four threats against media houses were recorded from May 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021.

The IJU president Geetartha Pathak said: “The vandalising of the media houses by BJP workers must be viewed as a blatant act of bullying and attempt to silence the media. The police cannot be a mute spectator to such violence and must act immediately. The culprits must be brought to book and the ruling party must compensate the newspaper for the damages that has been done.”

The NUJ-I president Ras Bihari said: “NUJ-I condemn the vandalism on the media houses. A protest march will be organized on Friday and a memorandum will be submitted to condemn the incident and attracting the attention of Press Council of India.”

The IFJ said: “These attacks to media organisations are transparent attempts by the state to silence critical voices, gravely violating freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The IFJ urges Indian authorities to immediately detain the culprits and provide compensation to the five organisations and individual journalists attacked.”

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

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

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram