Leading Indian newsweekly attacked by hardliners

New York, August 14, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack today on the Mumbai office of the Indian weekly Outlook by a group of men who identified themselves as members of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party. The assailants were apparently angered by the political journal’s depiction of their founder, Bal Thackeray, as a “villain” in the current issue of the magazine dedicated to India’s 60th anniversary of independence, according to an account of the incident published on the magazine’s Web site.

Six men forcibly entered the magazine’s offices at Raheja Chambers in the Nariman Point area of the city at around 3 p.m. and demanded to see the editor. When told he was not available, they proceeded to ransack the premises, smashing windows, computer equipment, and office furniture. No one was injured in the attack.

“CPJ urges the Mumbai police to provide the journalists at Outlook with protection, as they have requested,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We also ask the Maharashtra state government to give this case the urgent attention that it deserves and ensure that those responsible for the attack are brought to justice.”  
CPJ joins the Editors Guild of India in urging the Shiv Sena to take appropriate disciplinary action against members responsible for the attack.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Outlook magazine editor Vinod Mehta called the incident a “clear and blatant attack on the freedom of the press.” He demanded police action “not just against these foot soldiers but against the person who masterminded the attack.”

The special edition of the magazine features a section on India’s heroes and villains, including Thackeray in a rogue’s gallery that also includes Ghandi’s assassin. The article, which is accompanied by a caricature of Thackeray dressed up as Adolf Hitler, states that Thackeray’s incendiary speeches and articles demonizing Muslims “sparked the ghastly 1992 Mumbai riots.”

Earlier this month, the Shiv Sena warned that there would be “repercussions across the state” if the government revives attempts to prosecute those indicted by the Srikrishna Commission for their role in the 1992-1993 communal riots in Mumbai, including Thackeray.