New Delhi, April 11, 2018–Authorities in West Bengal state must identify and bring to justice those who assaulted Biplab Mondal, a photojournalist with the Times of India Kolkata city bureau, and Manas Chattopadhyay, a reporter with the regional ETV Bharat television channel, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Mondal and Chattopadhyay were covering a local village council election’s nominations process on April 9 in West Bengal state’s South 24 Parganas district when they were attacked, according to a report in The Indian Express newspaper.
“Attacks on journalists in India who are just reporting the news need to stop,” said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator from Washington D.C. “We urge police to promptly take action against those responsible for assaulting Biplab Mondal and Manas Chattopadhyay to send a message that journalists are allowed to do their jobs unimpeded.”
Supratim Sarkar, the Additional Commissioner of Police in Kolkata, told CPJ that they have “started investigations into the case[s] and are treating it with all seriousness. Those responsible will not be spared.”
Mondal was taking pictures on his mobile phone at approximately 11 a.m. outside the district administration building when two men asked to see his phone, the journalist told CPJ.
“When I told them I was from the press, they called other men and all of them started beating me up [with their hands],” he told CPJ. The journalist said the men also forced him to unlock his phone and delete all of the photos he had taken of the elections. Mondal told CPJ he was unable to determine how many men were in the crowd.
“Later, they took me to a small village near the administration building where they stripped me of my clothes, took photos and threatened to publish them on the internet,” Mondal added.
He said that the Times of India complained to the Kolkata city police about the attack. Sarkar acknowledged that police had received the complaint.
In a separate incident outside the same district administration building, approximately 30-40 men approached Chattopadhyay while he was taking pictures on his phone, surrounded him, grabbed the phone, and hit him on his head with a stick, the journalist told CPJ.
Chattopadhyay said that police arrived and cleared the crowd around him and asked why he was there.
A report in the Indian Express newspaper quoted Chattopadhyay as saying that a police officer then called a taxi for him and asked him to leave.