The Indian Journalists Union has expressed concern over the detention and filing of cases against two Delhi-based women journalists of HW News Network, Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha for their reportage and tweet on the communal friction in the State.
Though the two were released on bail by the CJM court in Gomti district on Monday on furnishing a bond of Rs 75000 each, the IJU demands the cases, as well as against journalist Shyam Meera Singh (under UAPA), be withdrawn immediately, as these have a ‘chilling effect’ on journalists and stifle freedom of speech and expression.
In a statement on Sunday, HW News Network said Sakunia and Jha were “detained by Assam police on their way to Silchar’ at the request of Tripura police.
They were served FIR, charging them under IPC Sections 120B, 153A and 504 on a complaint of a local VHP member for allegedly ‘maligning’ the image of Tripura government and VHP.”
After the due legal process, both were allowed to leave their hotel but taken back to Tripura for further questioning. “This”, said the Network “is sheer harassment and targeting of the press on part of Tripura police and government to suppress us from reporting facts of the case.”
On its part, the Tripura police in a statement said the two journalists were booked at Kakraban police station, South Tripura “for creating hatred between communities by fabricating, concealing of record etc in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy as revealed from the tweeter post by Sakunia”.
In the social media, it said, she posted a video relating to a claim that a holy Quran was burnt in the half-burnt prayer hall on 19 October. However, on the investigation, no such damaged books/documents were brought to the IO notice, the police said and thus a suo moto complaint was filed.
The journalist was asked to give details of the said document, but instead of cooperating, she left Tripura. The Assam police help was thus sought.
The two have also been booked for ‘spreading communal hatred’ at Paul Bazaar under Fatikroy police station under north Tripura.
The Tripura Journalists Union had earlier demanded the Government Issue orders for the immediate and unconditional release of the two journalists. Besides, TJU General Secretary led a fact-finding team to Udaipur, South Tripura, where the journalists had been held.
In a statement, IJU President and former Member of Press Council of India, Geetartha Pathak and Secretary-General and Vice President of International Federation of Journalists Sabina Inderjit said the action of the Tripura police comes across as sustained harassment and intimidation of the journalists under the grab of quelling ‘vested interests trying to flare up the communal incident in Tripura’.
Though the women journalists have been granted bail and that the Supreme Court has agreed to admit Shyam Meera Singh’s case against UAPA charges, the Union said the harassment they face is unsettling and authorities must refrain from such sinister actions.