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India 9 April 2002

A group of journalists attacked by police in the state of Gujarat

In a letter sent to the interior minister of the state of Gujarat, Gordhan Zadaphia, Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) denounced the attack on some twenty journalists by police in the state of Gujarat (west of the country). "After accusing the media of exaggerating the extent of the recent wave of inter-community violence in the state of Gujarat, the authorities of this state chose the most reprehensible way to act by preventing the press from doing its job," said Robert Ménard, RSF general secretary. RSF called on the minister to provide the resources needed to the commission of enquiry so it could carry out its investigation completely and ensure that the appropriate sanctions be applied.

According to information obtained by RSF, some twenty journalists and media professionals were attacked on 7 April 2002 by police officers at Gandhi Ashram, a quarter of Ahmedabad (state of Gujarat, west of the country). The journalists were covering two peace demonstrations that were disrupted by members of Gujarat Yuva Morcha, the youth section of the BJP (party in power). As the incidents began, Deputy Commisioner of Police V. M. Parghi told Pranav Joshi, a cameraman with the private television station NDTV, to stop filming. After Joshi asked why he was to stop, he was hit in the head and fell to the ground. Witnesses said that the police charged the journalists, threatening them with their guns. The incident ended about ten minutes later, after Shivanand Jha, head superintendent, who had done nothing until then, ordered his men to withdraw. Harsh Shah and Harshyal Pandya, respectively photographer with the daily Indian Express and journalist with the private television station ETV, were, like Pranav Joshi, seriously wounded during this attack. Pranav Joshi was hospitalized and placed in intensive care. A photographer with the Times of India was also hit in the ribs and kicked. Dhimant Purohit, correspondant for the Aaj Tak TV channel, Sanjeev Singh, NDTV reporter, Amit Dave, photographer with the Jansatta newspaper, Ashish Amin, reporter, Ketan Trivedi and Gautam Mehta, respectively journalist and photographer with the Gujarat Samachar newspaper, have also been beaten. Journalists filed a complaint against the deputy superintendent shortly after this incident. The minister of the interior for the state of Gujarat issued a communiqué during the night of 7 April, denying that the police officers attacked the press. But another official communiqué, issued several hours after that of the ministry, stated that a commission of enquiry was being set up and would be chaired by a retired judge of the High Court. The commission is to issue its report in three weeks. On 8 April, the Gujarat government announced that superintendents Shivanand Zha and V. M. Pargi were being reassigned, and that a criminal investigation was being launched.

In the beginning of April 2002, Sonal Kellog, journalist with the Asian Age newspaper, was beaten up by Gujarat police while she was interviewing Muslim women who had complained of police atrocities.




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