Indian media group targeted by violence

New York, January 30, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack on an Indian media group’s offices by rightwing Hindu nationalists protesting a local newspaper’s coverage of their internal politics.

On Saturday afternoon, dozens of supporters of the Shiv Sena, a rightwing Hindu nationalist party, attacked the Times of India building in Mumbai, protesting an article that ran in the Maharashtra Times, a Marathi-language daily that is part of the Times of India group, news reports said. The article said Sena politician Anandrao Adsul was going to change allegiances and join the rival National Congress Party (NCP), according to news reports.

Adsul told reporters that the article was factually incorrect and would damage his political career ahead of elections. His supporters went to the newspaper office to register their complaint, he said.

The protesters forcefully entered the news offices, roughing up security guards and vandalizing the building, and burned copies of the Maharashtra Times, news reports said. Police arrested 28 of the activists for rioting and vandalism, the Times of India reported.

“We condemn this attack against the Times of India media offices in Maharashtra and call for the perpetrators to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said CPJ Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz. “Authorities must do whatever they can to prevent attacks like these, which have a chilling effect on critical reporting by the Indian media.”

Attacks on the media by rightwing groups have been on the rise in Maharashtra, where the Shiv Sena group has a strong presence, according to a January 29 Times of India editorial that called for legislation to protect journalists. CPJ has documented several such attacks in recent years. In 2009, the offices of the television channel IBN-Lokmat were attacked for being critical of the Shiv Sena, and several journalists were injured, according to news reports.

Mumbai’s media community has been vocal in criticizing Saturday’s attack on the Times of India. The Mumbai Press Club plans to hold a protest rally next week against the growing number of attacks on journalists and to press the state government to enact legislation to deter future violence, according to news reports.