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Our Silence will Kill Journalism. We Must Speak up,” say senior journalists on Burari attack

Ravi Kaushal |
A large gathering of journalists in Delhi also condemned the arrest of three colleagues in Ballia in the UP paper leak case.

Three days after the alleged attack on journalists in a hate assembly in the national capital,  journalists across the platforms assembled on Wednesday in Press Club of India to express shock and dismay at the event attended by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati and Suresh Chavanke, notorious for their hate speeches in different cities in past two years.

Saraswati, Chief Priest, Dasna Temple in Ghaziabad is out on bail for hate speech against Muslims made in Haridwar.

A complaint lodged by one of the journalists with Delhi Police maintains that the speakers of the assembly incited  the mob to attack the journalists covering the event. The attack came along with news of arrest of Ballia based journalists who busted a paper leak scam in Uttar Pradesh.

Addressing the audience, Jaishankar Gupta, senior journalist and Member, Press Council of India, said that the journalists must react to rampant pattern of targeting them if they choose to report on matters of grave concern. He said,”when I heard the news about arrest of journalist in Ballia, I was apprised that the journalist was part of the group which facilitated leak of the examination paper. But  it became clear later that the administration tried to malign journalists because they were not naming our their sources. Given the law and order situation, I can inform you that we have a nexus of politicians, administrators and schools which take contracts for passing any student even if he is not attending the exams. The students from Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and other parts of the country come and enrol in these schools and pay a handsome sum of money to get them passed. On the day of examination, they stay in a hotel where they are handed out examination paper along with answers. When journalists like Ajit Jha, Manoj Gupta and Digvijay Singh published about the nexus, they were not only arrested but sent out far from Ballia to Azamgarh and tortured to reveal the sources. Let me put it bluntly that you may put us in prison but we will not reveal our sources. We are doing a constitutional job to inform the people. Even the guidelines by Press Council make it abundantly clear that a journalist cannot be tortured to reveal his sources. I also feel that journalists must react to events. Our silence will kill our journalism. What is more distressing is that the owners of Amar Ujala hesitated to take up the responsibility. The journalists rallied in Gorakhpur, Ballia, Mau, Azamgarh to protest the arrest and the management of Amar Ujala had to come up with strong objection to the incident.”

Gupta added that attacks should not be seen in isolation and the Centre’s seriousness could be understood from the fact that it could not find time to appoint new chairman to the Press Council of India.

“It’s testing time for us but the only option that we have is to report these hate assemblies and how local police officials allowed such hate assemblies,”he added.

Raising some scathing questions on the conduct of Delhi Police, Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor, The Caravan,said that the assault in Burari ground remained a grim reminder of another assault on the journalists of the outlet when they were talking to riot victims in North East Delhi.

“A woman journalist was harassed and molested while the Muslim journalist was beaten up ruthlessly. The third journalist was a Sikh and left alone while his colleagues were roughed up. Please remember that our identities are more important than our work in current regime. The Centre does not want a media critical of its programmes and actions. Hindutva’s love jehad does not only hate Muslims but it is clear that it also want to control the movements of a woman. It was clearly manifested in the attack. They do not want free, independent women who can stand up and ask questions."

Bal said the "third problematic aspect and most concerning remains that Muslims are being singled out. We must tie this with what is happening in Karnataka is not about religion alone but denying access to education. When they attack a Muslim journalist, they make it clear that they do not want Muslims to be a journalist or for that matter does not want them to work. Amid all this, the recurring approach of Delhi Police continues and I must tell you that it did not begin today. It is the same Delhi Police under previous administrations which abetted Congress leaders who slaughtered Sikhs in 1984. It is the same Delhi Police which abetted BJP leaders who went on rampage during Delhi riots. It is the same Delhi Police which takes note of assault without explaining how could such a hate assembly continued for hours even when it denied the permission for the event.”

Representing the Digipub Foundation, Abhinandan Sekhri from Newslaundry said that the event should fill Union Home Minister Amit Shah with shame that such an incident happened and his ministry could not take action even after three days.

"I think it should also generate some sense of shame and embarrassment in Delhi Police officials that the attack happened in presence of its policemen. I can understand that there is pressure from senior officials to put aside responsibility but how can they put aside their self-respect by allowing it to happen to young journalists. Digipub will send its memorandum to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs because the incidents of attacks on journalists are a nationwide phenomenon.”

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