Agartala: The Press Council of India (PCI) has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) of Tripura seeking their response to an alleged threat issued to media personnel and journalists in the state.
Anupama Bhatnagar, Secretary of PCI issued the notice based on a complaint filed by Subal Kumar Dey, Chairman and Sekhar Datta Convener, Assembly of Journalists of Agartala in connection with a threat made against journalists.“The complaint received from Subal Kumar Dey, Chairman and Sekhar Datta Convener Assembly of Journalists, Agartala dated 05.10.2020 on the subject mentioned above. On consideration of the complaint, Chairman, Press Council of India has decided to take cognizance in the matter under proviso of Regulations 14 (f) of Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979, and I have been directed to request to file your comments in the matter within two weeks from the date of receipt of this letter to enable the Council to determine further course of action in the matter,” the notice read.
Though the PCI has issued the notice on March 17 and sought a reply within two weeks, the home secretary of Tripura Saradindu Choudhury said that he only received the letter last week. “We are yet to provide our comment on the notice issued by Press Council of India. We only received it last week,” Choudhury told The Wire over the phone.
Meanwhile, the Assembly of Journalists (AoJ) a forum for the protection of media rights has alleged that at least 23 journalists have been attacked in Tripura in the last six months following an alleged threat issued by chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
“The Chief Minister had threatened the media during an even at Sabroom Sub-division on September 11. Encouraged by this, the miscreants sheltered under the umbrella of the ruling party are organizing constant attacks on media. At least 23 journalists have been attacked in Tripura in the last six months following the chief minister’s threat. Earlier, the PCI had filed a case against the Chief Minister for his anti-democratic remarks and collected supplementary information from the complainant Assembly of Journalists President Subal Kumar Dey and then convener Shekhar Dutta in support of the allegations and issued a notice to the state,” the press statement by AoJ said.
On September 11 last year, in the Sabroom sub-division of Tripura’s South district, chief minister Deb said that some newspapers are “getting all over-excited and trying to confuse people.” He further said that neither he nor history would forgive these journalists. “I do whatever I say, history is testimony to that,” Deb had added.
The chief minister’s comment was met with severe criticism from journalists in the state and was being perceived as a direct “threat to freedom of the press”.
Deb’s media advisor, however, said that his comments were being pulled out of context and misconstrued. AoJ has alleged that after the chief minister’s threat, attacks on the media have increased. A three-member delegation of the Press Council of India (PCI) recently visited Tripura and was also briefed by the AoJ on the plight of journalists and the media.
“Hours after the delegation left the state three miscreants physically attacked Sajal Baidya, a senior journalist from a daily local vernacular of the state. It has clear that miscreants were attacking journalists and media at the instigation of the chief minister. Bikash Das, another journalist of Syandan Patrika of Kanchanpur sub-division, has been implicated in a false rape case after he was fatally attacked by miscreants last week. Before the investigation into the incident began, the chief minister defended the accused in a statement during the Legislative Assembly session and explained the anti-government mentality of the media. So far, the police have not taken any action against the accused,” the statement of AoJ cited.
However, the state BJP unit’s spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said, “Chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb’s comment was pulled out of context and misconstrued. Some people misusing the comment. Everyone knows the reality and the history of attacks on journalists. At least two journalists were murdered in our state”.