The Price Journalists Pay for Doing Their Job in India – Sexual Violence, Mob Attack

Social Commentary

The Price Journalists Pay for Doing Their Job in India – Sexual Violence, Mob Attack

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

India’s position in the World Press Freedom Index for 2020 is an abysmal 142 out of 180 in 2020. This year’s ranking marks a drop in two positions, from the already poor ranking of 140. And yesterday, a shocking incident in northeast Delhi’s Subash Mohalla illustrated just why the country’s ranking continues to slide. Three reporters from Caravan Magazine were assaulted by a violent mob while on the job, and the woman reporter in their ranks was also sexually harassed during the incident. Despite a complaint being filed on both counts by the journalists, Delhi Police are yet to register a First Information Report in connection to the case.

The three reporters, Pradeep Singh, Shahid Tantray, and a woman reporter, were in the area to report on communal tensions in the area in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi Pujan on August 5. Caravan Magazine’s own report on the incident states that the reporters were clicking photographs when they were approached by a group of men asking them to stop. These men were aggressive, and led by an individual who identified himself as a “BJP general secretary”.

More locals gathered as the men continued to demand the camera, leading to a mob of around 50 people forming. The mob became aggressive on discovering the Muslim identity of Tantray, and began pushing and beating the Caravan journalists. The woman reporter managed to extricate herself from the tussle and ran to another lane in the neighbourhood, where more men surrounded her and began to make sexually obscene remarks and gestures toward her. She was also beaten by assailants before finally re-joining her colleagues at the Bhajanpura Police Station, where Singh and Tantray were taken by police after being removed from the mob’s clutches.

Shockingly, despite the journalists submitting written complaints to the police, the FIR has not been filed. The Caravan report states that Ashok Sharma, the Bhajanpura station-house officer, has said the police need to examine both sides as the locals have filed a complaint of their own against the journalists. Meanwhile outrage over the police inaction continues to grow.

The Network of Women in Media has condemned the attack. “The physical attack on all the three journalists and the sexual harassment and of the woman journalist, while reporting, are serious assaults and represent a setback to press freedom,” a statement said.

Journalists and writers from the country have raised their voice against the attack.

A free press is an indispensable part of a democracy. However, episodes like these highlight just how dangerous a profession journalism has become in India at present.