Calling out the “continuing trend of heavy-handedness” by the Uttar Pradesh administration against journalists, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) said the recent physical attack against a journalist while he was covering block pramukh elections in Unnao district was “highly condemnable and actionable”.
A video which has now gone viral shows a local journalist, Krishna Tiwari, being beaten up by Divyanshu Patel, chief development officer (CDO) of Unnao, and reportedly by some BJP workers on Saturday, July 10. Patel attacked the journalist after he filmed the government officer allegedly helping kidnap local council members to stop them from voting, according to NDTV.
Although Tiwari had filed an FIR (first information report) later with the police, the complaint did not mention Patel, but blamed the attack on “unidentified men”. Patel reportedly apologised to Tiwari and photos of them exchanging sweets were circulated on Sunday, July 11, according to Hindi daily Navbharat Times.
The EGI said that the latest attack against a journalist is not a one-off incident but has a history and culture to it, actively aided by the Uttar Pradesh government.
“This incident has come against the backdrop of increased persecution of journalists in the state of UP, as the administration has punished, penalised and incarcerated journalists in an effort to intimidate them from freely reporting on crimes, state excesses and the management of pandemic,” a statement issued by EGI said.
Even though the official concerned later reportedly apologised for attacking the journalist, the EGI statement expressed concern that the “heavy-handedness by the administration is hurting democratic rights of media, which becomes all the more crucial given that the state goes to polls next year”.
The EGI demanded strict action be initiated against the official concerned and called for immediate steps to be taken to improve the environment for independent journalism in the state.
In the same breath, the EGI also drew its attention to the continued detention of Siddique Kappan, the journalist who was arrested while reporting on the rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras in October 2020.
The EGI statement, signed by its president Seema Mustafa, general secretary Sanjeev Kapoor, and treasurer Anant Nath, expressed its lament that despite several appeals by Kappan’s family and civil society, he was denied a fair trial and treatment.