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24 Nov 2009

On 20th November, Shiv Sena activists attacked journalists and damaged property in IBN 7 and IBN Lokmat offices in Mumbai and Pune.

These 20-25 Shiv Sena activists were armed with sticks, bats and iron rods and wanted to teach Nikhil Waghle, Editor in Chief of IBN-Lokmat, a lesson. Besides Waghle, who was slapped, pushed around, three other staffers sustained injuries in the attack. The channels have criticized the chauvinist and intolerant politics being played in the State, the recent being Shiv Sena’s take on cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for saying that Mumbai belongs to us all. Shiv Sena has refused to apologize for the attacks and insist them to be justified as defending Marathi Pride.

PUDR sees the recent attack as part of numerous such attacks attempting to curtail freedom of press and expression. These attacks are a sign of growing intolerance towards dissident views which does not augur well for our democratic set up. This year, on 5th November, Jagannath Bastia, a journalist with the leading Oriya daily, Samaj was brutally attacked. Mr. Bastia had exposed the multi crore land scam in Puri. Laxman Choudhary, a journalist with the Oriya daily Sambad was arrested on 21st September for being an associate of Naxals as he was alleged to carry Maoists leaflets addressed to him. Choudhary had published a news story alleging the police to be hand in glove with drug traders who bribe the police. He is still languishing in jail. Last year, in December, Mr. Lenin Kumar, editor of a progressive journal Nishan along with two of his colleagues was arrested in Orissa. Mr. Kumar had written a book on communal violence in Kandhamal which the police found provocative to cause disharmony amongst communities. He was also alleged to be pro-naxal. In February 2007, Shiv Sena activists had attacked Zee News office for airing a satirical skit on Bal Thackeray. In March 2007, staff members of CNN-IBN channel were attacked as the channel had aired a story about the assets of Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati which was already under CBI probe.

Journalists seem to have become a soft target for lumpen elements in our polity and society. The attacks continue as a culture seems to have developed where even the lager media community is also not too much bothered except for the newspaper or channel which is targeted. PUDR strongly condemns such vandalism and use of threat to the free working of journalists as undermining democracy and right to freedom enshrined in our Constitution. We demand stringent and immediate action against the culprits so that it sets some sort of a precedent that such attacks would not be tolerated.

Gautam Navlakha
Moushumi Basu