New Delhi, June 27, 2019 — Police in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu must promptly investigate and prosecute those behind the attack on journalist G. Muthuvel and protect him from further attacks, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On June 19, in the offices of Polimer News in Thoothukudi, in southern India, three men attacked Muthuvel, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster, kicking and punching him and hitting him with a machete and iron rods, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via phone.
Muthuvel spoke to CPJ from a hospital in Tirunelveli, a city west of Thoothukudi, where he said he is undergoing treatment for serious cuts and contusions to his head, chest, back, and hand. One of his fingers was cut off in the attack, which doctors have been able to stitch back on, he said.
The morning after the attack, police arrested a local real estate broker, S. Shanmuganathan, and alleged that he led the group of attackers, according to Muthuvel and a report in Indian daily The Hindu. Muthuvel said that the other two men have not been found.
The journalist told CPJ that he has received threatening phone calls during his hospitalization from unknown phone numbers urging him to drop his assault complaint and saying that he will be assaulted again if he does not.
“This kind of brazen assault and threats made to a journalist cannot be tolerated,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator in Washington, D.C. “G. Muthuvel’s attackers – and those behind them – must be brought to justice quickly.”
The attackers told Muthuvel that he was “paying the price” for his coverage of Gajendran, the inspector in charge of a police station in Thattarmadam, a city south of Thoothukudi, the journalist told CPJ. Muthuvel had recently covered a protest against the inspector, during which Gajendran had approached the journalist and urged him not to air any footage of the protest, Muthuvel said.
He did air the footage of the protest, Muthuvel told CPJ.
The anonymous callers urged Muthuvel to drop any complaints against both Shanmuganathan and Gajendran, he said.
Muthuvel told CPJ that he named Gajendran in his police report as the potential inciter of the attack, but that no actions have been taken against the inspector so far.
CPJ repeatedly called and texted Gajendran and Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police Murli Rambha, who is in charge of the case, but did not receive any responses. CPJ was unable to contact Shanmuganathan, who, according to The Hindu, remains in jail.