Reporters Without Borders condemned the beating today by police of journalists Robin Dhekial Phukan (of the daily Asomiya Pratidin) and Parag Bhuyan (of Dainik Janambhumi) in Kakopathar (in the northeastern state of Assam), where they were reporting on a visit by state chief minister Tarun Gagoi.
“It is shocking that reporters are beaten up just for doing their job,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “We demand that those responsible be punished.”
Phukan was badly injured after a beating by a policeman, taken to a police station and then to hospital. Bhuyan was injured during a police charge against a crowd shouting anti-government slogans and taken to the local hospital and then to Tinsukia.
Police refused to comment on the incidents and journalists then boycotted a press conference arranged for the chief minister.
Black week for press freedom as violence explodes in Kashmir, Manipur and Mumbai
Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay over a wave of violence against Indian media by separatists and armed religious groups in the week of 6 February 2006.
Attacks launched in this black week for press freedom included a murder attempt against one journalist, the ransacking of a TV station and a newspaper. One documentary was censored.
“We urge the government in New Delhi to ensure that thorough investigations are opened so that those responsible are found and punished,” the press freedom organisation said.
“Religious and separatist groups played an undeniable role in this violence. Their intolerance stands in the way of any lasting improvement in journalists’ working conditions,” it added.
The Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) on 12 February admitted responsibility in a press statement for a murder attempt three days earlier against Ratan Luwangcha, bureau chief for the regional daily Poknapham in Imphal, Manipur state in India’s north-east.
Three armed men fired several shots at the 40-year-old journalist on 9 February before fleeing on a motorbike. Three bullets hit him in the chest and legs. The journalist, secretary general of the Manipur state journalists’ union, had to undergo an emergency operation.
His family described his condition as “critical” and said that he would probably need a second operation. He was expected to stay in hospital for at least three months, they added. Regional journalists organised a publication strike in protest at this “barbarous act”.
On the same day, six members of the Javed Mir faction of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) ransacked the offices of the regional daily Greater Kashmir, bursting into the editorial office in Srinagar in the north-west overnight after the paper declined to publish one of its statements.
In reprisal, they injured three staff, broke windows and stole computers. Security guards had been placed outside the newspaper after phoned telephone threats were received that same morning. Police arrested one suspect, Wajhat Qureshi, who was released on bail on 10 February.
Greater Kashmir is Indian Kashmir’s top selling newspaper and has suffered several threats and attacks on previous occasions.
Militants from the Hindu extremist Shiv Sena party on 8 February raided the offices of national television channel Zee in Mumbai, western central India, after it put out a sketch about conflict within the Thackeray family which leads the party. “This act of vandalism is a response to this hateful sketch (...) that ridicules the president, Uddhav Thackeray, and his cousin Raj (...) Thanks very much and keep the flame burning”, Bal Thackreray, head of Shiv Sena, was quoted as saying on the front page of the newspaper Saamna. Four people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Producer and director Atul Gupta said on 8 February that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had refused, under the 1952 cinema law, to award a release certificate for his documentary, Waiting, on the lives of wives of men who have disappeared in Kashmir.
The director also revealed that during filming, his crew had been threatened by members of the Indian military and some Kashmiri civilians. The CBRC justified its rejection of the film on the grounds that, “It does not deal comprehensively enough with this complex and poignant subject”.
Several directors of short films and film festival organisers have appealed to the Minister of Information Priyaranjan Dasmunsi to reform the 1952 law.