On Wednesday, journalists in Kolkata took out a silent march protesting the alleged stripping and torture of a Times of India photojournalist on April 9 and an attack on another ETV journalist. It is estimated that around 250 journalists took part in the march.
The photojournalist Biplab Mondal claims that he was tortured and half-stripped by Trinamool workers after he took pictures of the violence that took place during the nomination for the panchayat polls in Alipore, Kolkata. He said, “I was forcefully undressed by the ruling party goons. They threatened to click my half-nude pictures and upload them on Facebook. My only fault was that I was doing my duty.”
Manas Chattopadhyay, a journalist with the ETV who also claims to have been attacked says, “A group of people blocked my way. They snatched my mobile and thrashed me. They also hit me my head.”
The events in Kolkata were taken note of by the International Federation of Journalists as well. It said, “The IFJ condemns the act of intimidation and violence against photojournalist Biplab Mondal, Manas Chattopadhyay and other journalists in Kolkata. Attacks on journalists, forcing them to delete photos and stripping of a journalist is an unacceptable crime and violates journalists’ rights. Journalists have a right to freely report on incidents of public importance and without being intimidated. The IFJ urges the Indian authorities to immediately arrest and punish the attackers.”
The alleged attack on the journalists was also condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists Asia Program Coordinator. He said, “We urge police to promptly take action against those responsible for assaulting Biplab Mondal and Manas Chattopadhyay to send a message that journalists are allowed to do their jobs unimpeded.”
However, chief minister Mamata Banerjee outrightly denied the attacks from having taken place. She said, “No such incident has taken place. This is being done deliberately by some quarter. A planned effort is on to influence the judiciary. It is the tactics of a particular media house.”
Interestingly, Mamata Banerjee had shown solidarity when journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered in September 2017. She had attended a protest rally which had been organised by journalists in the capital city of Kolkata. She was actually leading the candlelight march which was an initiative of the Kolkata Press Club and attended by around 100 journalists.
Gauri Lankesh was a veteran Kannada journalist who spoke up heavily against Hindutva right-wing forces and was very critical of the Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party. PM Narendra Modi was criticised for following a Twitter account which celebrated the assassination of Gauri Lankesh.
But when the journalists are allegedly attacked by her own party workers, the sensitivity seems to be missing.
Image used for representative purposes only.