Attack on Caravan journalists is a serious threat to Indian media: Women journalists’ body

The Network of Women in Media (NWMI), a national collective for women in the media, has condemned the attack on three journalists—Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh, and a woman journalist of The Caravan magazine and demanded immediate action.

Three journalists including a female journalist from The Caravan were physically manhandled, sexually abused and received death threats by a Hindu mob in North East Delhi including local leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday while they were covering a story about an anti-Muslim atmosphere that broke out in the area on the night of August 5, following the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

“The physical attack on all the three journalists and the sexual harassment of the woman journalist, while reporting, are serious assaults and represent a setback to press freedom. This incident is a chilling indicator of the grave risks to on-ground reporting that journalists in India have been facing, even in the national capital,”

The network said it has learnt that one of the journalists, Shahid Tantray, was targeted for his Muslim identity, and had to be rescued from a lynch mob. In his complaint, Prabhjit Singh wrote that were he not present, “the mob led by that saffron-clad man would have lynched Shahid for his Muslim identity.”

“In a shocking and reprehensible attack, the third reporter was sexually harassed and physically assaulted,” the women journalists’ body said.

“After the mob began attacking her, she managed to extricate herself and escape to a neighbouring lane. The mob surrounded her and took her pictures and videos without her consent, and verbally harassed her. A man, part of the mob, exposed his genitals to her, shook his penis and made lewd facial expressions at her. As the woman staffer ran and attempted to reach the police station, the mob attacked her again. The attackers beat her on her head, arms, hips, and chest,” it said.

NWMI said that while the local police managed to take the journalists to the Bhajanpura Police Station, they did not register a first information report. It said the incident raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in India.

The statement reads: “The pattern of aggressive mobs targeting journalists on the basis of their religion and gender was also seen recently during the Delhi violence in February. This is a grave and serious threat to the Indian media and the democratic ethos of the country. The fact that such incidents continue also demonstrates the lack of political will to create a climate for free expression and press freedom.”