India: Odisha journalist assaulted in police custody

Reporter Loknath Dalei was allegedly assaulted and mistreated by police officers from Nilagiri police station on April 6, for his prior reporting on the district’s alleged corruption. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned by the journalist’s assault and urges the authorities to expedite their investigation into the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Journalist Loknath Dalei. Credit: The Telegraph India.

According to India Times, Loknath Dalei, a reporter for Kanak TV in Balasore, attended Nilagiri police station regarding about a minor motorcycle accident on April 4. At the station, the journalist was confronted by the Inspector, Droupadi Das, who proceeded to assault him.

"The police made me sit for five hours. When I tried to get in touch with my friends, the local police officer thrashed me and I fell down. I almost fainted. Later on Wednesday evening, I was admitted to the Balasore district hospital," Dalei said in a statement to The Telegraph.

Dalei fell unconscious after the attack and was sent to the Balasore District Hospital that evening, where he was chained by police officers and left without a bed.

“Nearly seven guards carrying guns are guarding me [to the hospital]. On Thursday morning, two constables came and put iron shackles on my leg as if I would flee from the hospital”, Dalei said.

The journalist claims he was targeted for previous reports he had published on the police district’s alleged corruption.

Photos and videos of Dalei’s condition went viral on social media, with India’s Minister of Education and Skill Development, Dharmendra Pradhan, condemning the actions of the police officers.

Following public outcry, the Balasore Superintendent of Police, Shri Sudhansu Sekhar Mishra, informed reporters that an investigation into the incident would be undertaken, and that “strict action will be taken against those found guilty”.

The IFJ said: “The assault on Loknath Dalei by police officials is completely unjustified and another example of the authorities’ blatant disregard for working journalists in India. The IFJ calls for a swift investigation into the incident and calls on the Indian government to better to safeguard journalists across the country”.

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

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

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