Press corps targeted during riots in India

New York, August 14, 2012–At least three Indian journalists were attacked over the weekend during protests by Muslim groups calling for news coverage of the deaths of Muslims in the ongoing ethnic tension in the state of Assam, according to news reports.

Mumbai-based Muslim groups staged demonstrations in the city on Saturday, protesting against the violence in the northeast and accusing the national press of failing to cover attacks against Muslims, news reports said. Long-standing ethnic tension between the Bodo tribe, who are largely Hindu or Christian, and predominantly Muslim Bengalis immigrating to Assam from Bangladesh exploded in fatal riots in the state’s Kokrajhar district in July, according to news reports.

News accounts reported that Saturday’s demonstrators targeted photojournalists and TV crews when the rally turned violent. The Times of India reported that the protesters were asking the identities of media persons and the outlet they represented before attacking them.

At least three photojournalists working for daily newspapers were targeted, news reports said. Vivek Bendre, of the national The Hindu; Prashant Sawant, of the local Sakal Times; and Atul Kamble, of the local Mid-Day sustained injuries in the violence and sought treatment at a local hospital, the reports said.

Protesters also set fire to the van of ABP News, a private news channel, in the streets of south Mumbai, according to the local website Newsbullet. Other news reports said that a total of three news vans had been burned, but did not name the news outlets.

“We’re alarmed that protesters are selectively attacking journalists for what they believe to be inadequate press coverage of their issues,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Muslim leaders should condemn such violence and call on their followers to refrain from attacking any journalists, irrespective of their affiliation.”

The Hindustan Times published a first-person account of the riots by an unnamed journalist at the scene.

“A few photographers and I started running … when a mob of about 400 people clashed with us. We got separated and each of us was attacked by at least 25 men,” the contributor wrote. “They asked us which media organisations we work for. When I told them, they punched me. They tried to snatch my camera, and when I resisted, they beat me up and fled with my mobile phone.”

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