Chhattisgarh: Journalists Wore Helmets To A BJP Event After Party Members Beat A Reporter Injuring His Head
On February 7, several journalists in Raipur Chhattisgarh wore helmets while interviewing Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. This silent form of protest took place after one of the local journalists, Suman Pandey was allegedly thrashed by BJP district Chief Rajeev Agarwal and three other party workers. Agarwal and the three others were reportedly arrested on February 2 for the alleged assault, but by evening they got bail, as reported by The Print.
Journalists turn up donning helmets
The journalists turned up geared in heavy-duty protection while covering an event where BJP leaders were speaking. As reported by NDTV, the journalists said that they wanted to send a symbolic message to the party workers and also to “save” themselves lest they are similarly attacked.
On February 2, journalist Suman Pandey was allegedly thrashed by BJP members. Pandey, who works for a digital news portal “The Voices”, was recording a meeting of the BJP’s district-level leaders in Raipur. Pandey later told PTI that some time into the meeting, few members got into a scuffle. Pandey was asked to delete the video showing the scuffle by Agarwal and another person Utkarsh Trivedi, however, Pandey refused. “They then started hitting me and forcefully deleted the video,” he said. Notably, soon after the incident, Pandey was made to sit inside the meeting room. After coming out of the room he told about the incident to other journalists. Later few more journalists gathered around the BJP office. They protested demanding the arrest of the accused. An FIR was lodged against Agarwal and three others at a local police station. They were booked under section 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention) of IPC, as reported by Deccan Herald. But in the evening, on the same day, all the four got bail.
Acknowledging the incident, Chhattisgarh BJP spokesperson Sacchidanand Upasane, who was also present in the meeting said that the party has apologised to Pandey. Upasane further said that it was a closed-door meeting held to discuss the party’s recent defeat in the assembly elections. He said that journalists were asked to leave after taking initial footage, adding that even party leaders and workers were asked to switch off mobile.
As of now, the local journalists have posed two demands in front of BJP. Firstly, the demand for the removal of Agarwal from the party. Secondly, they are also pushing for enactment of a new law for the protection of the journalists as was being considered by Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel.
The Logical Indian Take
India slipped two places to 138th in the annual press freedom index report released by the Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders), an organisation that monitors attacks on journalists and different forms of censorship across countries, in April 2018. Media, which is considered the fourth pillar of democracy is now being arm-twisted, threatened and attacked for doing its job. 11 Journalists were killed in India in 2017 for doing their job while in 2018 Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead. The government must strive hard to make sure that this fourth pillar of democracy, under no circumstances must feel threatened.