NEW YORK, Nov 25, (APP) The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has pressed upon the Indian authorities to launch investigation into the attacks on journalists in Agartala, the capital city of eastern state of Tripura.
In a statement on Wednesday, CPJ has urged India to probe the recent attacks on journalists in Tripura on November 21, in the run-up to municipal elections which began today [Nov 25]. People allegedly working for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition Trinamool Congress clashed in the streets of the state capital, Agartala, injuring at least 19 people, according to news reports.
At least five journalists were among those injured, according to the news website Newslaundry and Santosh Gope, secretary of Tripura Journalists Union, who spoke to CPJ over the phone.
Gope and Newslaundry identified the injured journalists as Ali Akbar Lashkar and Mamoni Bhattacharya, reporters with Kolkata-based news website Ab Tak Khabar; Miltan Dhar, a photographer with the news channel News Vanguard; Bapan Das, a photographer with the news channel Times24; and Prashant Dey, a photographer with the news channel Headlines Tripura.
In a statement, Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. said, “Authorities in India’s Tripura state must thoroughly investigate recent attacks on journalists, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”
“The state government has a responsibility to guarantee that journalists can do their jobs safely, without threats to their lives,” Butler added.
The injured journalist Lashkar told CPJ in a phone interview that he and Bhattacharya had traveled to Agartala from Kolkata to cover the election. In the evening of November 21, he and the other reporters were interviewing government officials and politicians outside the East Agartala Women’s Police Station, where a Trinamool Congress politician had been detained, when a group of nearly 200 arrived and started attacking people.
Members of the mob wore helmets and brandished hockey sticks, batons, and rods, according to Newslaundry.
Lashkar further said that the attackers stole his press card, broke his boom mic, punched him, and beat him with batons as he struggled to enter the police station for his safety. He told CPJ that he sustained injuries to his back, head, and eyes.
The local police took Lashkar and Bhattacharya to a nearby government hospital for treatment, but another group of about 20 people attempted to attack them there, and the journalists hid inside a bathroom for their safety, Lashkar told CPJ.
Earlier, on November 3, Tripura police opened investigations into five journalists on terror charges, and on November 15, authorities in the state charged two journalists for allegedly spreading communal violence, according to news reports.
Tensions in Tripura increased after violent incidents in the run-up to the elections to the Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 12 other municipal bodies starting today.