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International Scribes Body IFJ condemns attacks on journalists in India

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Brussels: International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has in a statement expressed serious concern over attacks on journalists in India.  Recently broadcast journalist Jyotiranjan Mohapatra sustained serious injuries after an attack by four people riding motorcycles in the eastern Odisha state (on February 10) while journalist Nikhil Wagle’s car was attacked by political activists in Maharashtra on February 9 in relation to social media posts. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), condemning the attacks urged authorities ensure all investigations into the incidents are conducted thoroughly and transparently.

On February 10, Jyotiranjan Mohapatra, a reporter with Bada Khabar TV, was allegedly chased and attacked by four men riding on two motorbikes in the VSS Nagar area of the central city of Bhubaneswar, in Odisha. The journalists suffered serious injuries to his hand and head, and was transferred to the Capital Hospital for treatment, receiving 15 stitches to his forehead. 

According to Mohapatra, four people began following him during his return from work on his motorcycle. The assailants pursued the journalist, before swinging at him with a sword, after which Mohapatra fell and was assaulted. The journalist claims the attack was in relation to his reporting, with the assailants stealing cash and other valuables before fleeing the scene. Police officials said a case has been registered against the attackers and an investigation has begun. On February 12, three persons were arrested for their role in the attack, with the weapons and bikes used in the attack allegedly seized by law enforcement.

In another incident on February 9, journalist Nikhil Wagle’s car was attacked, allegedly by workers at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra’s western city of Pune, while on his way to speak at a programme. A video of the incident shows Nikhil’s car being stopped by a group of people shouting slogans and attacking the vehicle, throwing ink and food stuffs, and striking the car with missiles and other weapons. The car’s windows are visibly smashed, with damage to its body. 

The assailants reportedly attacked the journalist for his criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, after the latter was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. Police have launched a First Information Report (FIR) against BJP office bearers for their role in the incident, with senior BJP officials disciplining local activists for their role in the attack.

Wagle was charged under two First Information Reports, the first launched by a BJP related to the allegedly defamatory X posts, and the second launched by Pune police for the unauthorised attendance of the programme.  Press bodies including the Press Club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps and The Editors Guild of India have condemned the attack on Wagle, with the guild calling the attack “unjust, illegal and deplorable.”

the IJU said: “Every citizen including a journalist has the right to criticize politician. Using sedition law and 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and other draconian laws to gag freedom of press and speech is unacceptable in a democracy. The IJU demands legal action against the attack.”

The IFJ said “Journalists and media workers must be free to express their opinions without fear of attacks, just as law enforcement must ensure that attacks against journalists are subject to thorough investigations. The IFJ demands immediate steps from the authorities to ensure journalists and media personnel are protected, and that sustainable action is taken to address impunity in crimes against journalists and media workers.”

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