Journalists write to Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel over assault on scribes in Kanker, demand magisterial inquiry

On 26 September, editor of Bhumkal Samachar, Kamal Shukla, was beaten up outside a police station while he had gone to cover an attack on a young journalist

FP Staff October 10, 2020 20:35:09 IST
Journalists write to Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel over assault on scribes in Kanker, demand magisterial inquiry

File image of Bhupesh Baghel. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

Around 25 journalists from all over the country have written to Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel condemning the attack on journalists in the state's Kanker district in September.

On 26 September, senior journalist and editor of Bhumkal Samachar, Kamal Shukla, was beaten up by a group of men outside a police station in the Kanker district while he had gone to cover an attack on a young journalist, a report in The New Indian Express said.

According to a report in Times of India, the police issued a statement terming the incident as “brawl between two groups of journalists" and lodged an FIR in the case.

A report in HuffPost.in, identified the other journalist as Satish Yadav, a reporter with a local Hindi newspaper Subah ka Prahari.

The report added that the attackers in both the cases were members of the Congress party.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, Shukla, who works in the state's Bastar region, is one of the leading voices demanding a journalists’ protection law in Chhattisgarh, promised in the Congress party’s manifesto.

"He has also raised voice against alleged atrocities against tribals and journalists in the Bastar region on several occasions," the report said.

In the letter addressed to Baghel, the signatories, which also include author and journalist Rahul Pandita, said that it was "deeply shocking" that the Congress was "turning away" from its manifesto to introduce a law to protect journalists in the state.

The letter, originally shared by Twitter user @MahtabNama, was retweeted by Pandita.

"It is deeply shocking that the Congress government that came to power promising a law to protect journalists and assuring Freedom of Speech and Expression should now turn away from its responsibilities in such a brazen manner. Journalists in the state continue to face threats and violence for doing their work," the letter said.

The letter also alleged that "the failure of the government to act against Congress workers encourages more attacks on reporters".

It added, "The least expected in such a situation is timely and immediate action by the government to assure journalists and the public of its commitment to press freedom. A magisterial inquiry must be initiated. The local authorities must be held accountable for their failure to prevent the assault, despite threats being delivered to journalists in the presence of the police."

The journalists also demanded to "put in place the promised Protection of Media Persons Act at the earliest".

Referring to a state government-appointed fact-finding committee, the report said that the committee has no clear terms of reference. "Besides, the public relations department has no jurisdiction to investigate a criminal act," it added.

The committee, formed on 1 October, was reportedlyasked to submit a report within 10 days.

Shukla, who is observing a hunger strike over the case, was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying, "I am sitting on a hunger strike in front of the district collector’s office (to protest) against the violence against me."

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