Mumbai: On August 15, around noon, several journalists took to social media platform Twitter to express their concerns over the increasing instances of journalists being attacked across the country. This was a part of an online campaign launched to condemn the rise in attacks on journalists in the country.
In the past week, in two separate incidents, eight journalists were attacked while doing their jobs. Three of them, Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist, all belonging to the Delhi-based Caravan magazine, were assaulted by a mob in Northeast Delhi while they were out following up on a riot story. In Bengaluru, five journalists – from India Today, The News Minute and Suvarna News 24X7 – were attacked by the Bengaluru police while reporting on police action in the aftermath of vandalism and mob violence in the area on August 11.
From physical attacks on journalists of the @theCaravanindia for reporting on communal violence to false cases against @sharmasupriya for highlighting hunger, it is grim Independence Day here in India with press freedoms under attack like never before.
— Shoaib Daniyal (@ShoaibDaniyal) August 15, 2020
From physical assault to false police action, journalists in India have faced several difficulties while trying to do their jobs. These attacks have risen dramatically in the past year, especially on those who have been reporting on the Delhi riots and government shortcomings in the lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19.
Journalists in the conflict regions of Kashmir and Chhattisgarh have been regularly intimidated and criminal cases have been registered against those questioning the current dispensation. The online campaign addressed these concerns. As several journalists started posting their thoughts and demanded action against the perpetrators, #StopMediaLockdown began trending on Twitter.
For people of Kashmir, I-Day has meant shutdowns and censorship. Journalists in Kashmir have been. killed, jailed, attacked, falsely charged and hamstrung by the worst communication blockade in the world. Yet they tell their stories. https://t.co/6OY66Awsg4 #StopMediaLockdown
— geeta seshu (@geetaseshu) August 15, 2020
Founding editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan wrote, “Stop vigilante attacks, false cases, police violence.” Two FIRs were registered against The Wire and Varadarajan for publishing a report on the Yogi Adityanath government’s plans to go ahead with a religious event in Ayodhya during the lockdown.
Stop vigilante attacks, false cases, police violence.
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) August 15, 2020
Naresh Fernandes, editor of Scroll wrote, “For @scroll_in, this has meant a FIR against our executive editor, Supriya Sharma, for a report about hunger in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi. #stopmedialockdown.” The website’s executive editor Supriya Sharma was recently booked under non-bailable sections for her report about the difficulties faced by residents of Varanasi, the constituency represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While most cases of violence and police excesses have been reported from BJP-led states, in other states too, the police have resorted to criminal action against reporters, particularly those reporting on the pandemic. At least 15 reporters from the regional press in Maharashtra have been booked for exposing the state government’s inadequacy to control the spread of COVID-19 infection and make appropriate medical arrangements for infected people. In at least two instances, reporters were also sent to jail.