DIGIPUB News India Foundation, an organization of digital media outlets of the country, has condemned the Tripura government for police action against journalists.
“DIGIPUB News India Foundation condemns in the strongest terms the sustained pattern of intimidation against journalists of HW News Network,” the journalists’ body said in a statement.
An FIR has been filed against journalists Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha by the Tripura Police based on a complaint by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The case has been registered under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (Provocation with intent to cause riot) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for reporting the aftermath of attacks on Muslims in the state.
Sakunia said the police arrived at their hotel at around 10.30 PM on November 13 and served the FIR copy at around 5.30 AM the next morning.
They were not allowed to move out until 9 am on November 14, 2021, despite cooperating with the police.
The police arrived yesterday at the hotel around 10:30 at night and served the FIR copy in the morning 5:30am. We were supposed to leave for the capital Agartala but have been not allowed to move despite full cooperation. There are around 16-17 police deployed outside our hotel.
— Samriddhi K Sakunia (@Samriddhi0809) November 14, 2021
Around 16-17 police personnel were deployed outside their hotel in Dharmanagar in North Tripura District.
The journalists were released later on November 14 and have been asked to be present at the Fatikroy police station on November 21.
Digipub strongly deplores the harassment of the two journalists by the Tripura Police who invaded their privacy by showing up at their hotel and demanding their Aadhaar numbers and transport details, ostensibly to provide “security”, a contention that soon turned out to be false.
This is not only a violation of the freedom of the press but also a breach of the fundamental right to privacy, it said.
“This is not the first time that journalists have been intimidated for doing their jobs in this country. Many journalists face criminal investigations, arrest and jail terms, as India faces a sharp degradation in press freedom,” Digipub added.
In a country where the media are considered the fourth pillar of democracy, journalists must be allowed to hold the government to account without fear of intimidation and punitive action, said the organization.