India: Journalists harassed and attacked during farmer protest

Several journalists from Indian media group iTV were threatened, heckled and physically assaulted by unidentified assailants during a Republic Day tractor rally in New Delhi on January 26. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliate the National Union of Journalists – India (NUJ-I) condemn the attacks.

Aishwarya Jain, Ajit Shrivastava, Priya Singh and Aditya Nair, working for the iTV-owned NewsX and India News outlets, suffered verbal abuse, pelting with stones and intimidation during the rally by members of the crowd. Jain was caught and beaten while Shrivastava was thrashed with sticks.

Thousands of farmers, protesting controversial agricultural reforms, stormed New Delhi’s historic Red Fort in a convoy of tractors, horses and foot protesters. They called for the removal new laws that will greatly reduce the earnings of small farmers and favour large corporate farms. Despite calls for a peaceful protest, demonstrators clashed with police and breached barricades, shouting slogans denouncing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘black laws’.

The News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) condemned the attack, expressing “deep concern and anguish” at the threats to media personnel during the rally and called for the arrest of the assailants. ITV network also appealed to authorities to take action to ensure “free, fair and fearless journalism thrives in India and no journalists threatened and intimidated for simply doing their duty.”

India remains a dangerous nation for media workers with Indian journalists often targeted for their reporting on land and gang disputes. According to IFJ documentation, eight Indian journalists were killed in deliberate attacks during 2020, with many more suffering violence and abuse.

NUJ-I president, Ras Bihari, said: “In addition to the attack to journalists, many female journalists have complained of molestation and misbehavior during the protest. NUJ (I) condemns the attack and demands immediate arrest of the persons responsible for it.”

NUJ (I) said it will file complaints to the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Press Council of India regarding the misconduct.

The IFJ said: “This latest incident in New Delhi, along with the escalating frequency of journalist attacks in India, highlights the dire situation of press freedom in India. This verbal and physical assault of journalists must be met with swift prosecution of all perpetrators.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

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

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram