Kolkata: We the undersigned strongly condemn the harassment and intimidation of independent media houses and journalists associated with them by the Bharatiya Janata Party run central government. The raids by the Enforcement Directorate at the office of NewsClick and the homes of its directors and editor Prabir Purkayastha is not an isolated stray incident, but part of the BJP government’s ongoing witch hunt of media houses, journalists and activists, who refuse to toe its line. NewsClick has been intensely reporting the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the raids are clearly meant to intimidate it and a sort of warning signal to other online portals who dare to speak truth to power.
We consider the raids as a clear attempt to suppress journalism critical of the government and its policies. We call upon all media houses, journalists, activists to condemn such use of state agencies to intimidate journalists, and actively oppose silencing of free and independent media by the central government.
We demand that the government immediately stop the ED’s action against NewsClick and explain why it was raided to begin with. We demand immediate release of all journalists arrested on charges of sedition and under the anti-terrorist UAPA.
The government of India does not maintain any annual press freedom index but contests the global one prepared by Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers. The latter found that India had slipped down to 142 in 2020 from 138 three years back in the global ranking of 180 countries. The quasi-judicial Press Council of India also fails to provide any annual or decadal data base on attacks and arrests of media persons.
However, an independent study on attacks on journalists in India in the last five years has revealed that there have been more than 200 serious attacks on journalists in the country in the period between 2014 and 2019. According to the study by article-14.com titled Getting Away with Murder, “There were 40 killings of journalists between 2014-19. Of these, 21 have been confirmed as related to their journalism.”
Another report prepared by the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) that at least 55 journalists faced arrest, registration of FIRs, summons or show cause notices, physical assaults, alleged destruction of properties and threats for reportage on Covid-19 or exercising freedom of opinion and expression during the national lockdown from March 25 to May 31, 2020.
In this scenario, we call upon all media organizations, particularly the digital news and views platforms to record and collate attacks on independent, citizen journalists too.