Women form a human shield to protect Shaheen Abdulla, a journalist with news website Maktoob Media, from police wielding batons at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, India, on December 15, 2019. Journalists have been attacked in cities across India while covering recent protests. (Ghulam Hussain via Reuters)

Journalists beaten, detained while covering protests in cities across India

January 21, 2020 11:10 AM ET

Beginning in December 2019, hundreds of thousands of people across India protested against new laws that they allege discriminate against Muslims in the country, according to news reports. Demonstrators and police attacked journalists covering the protests, and authorities detained reporters covering them, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.

On December 11, protesters in Guwahati, Assam state, attacked Ratndadip Choudhury, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster NDTV, Choudhury told CPJ.

A group of 10 to 15 people smashed his car’s rear windshield and attempted to light the vehicle on fire, Choudhury said. When he got out of the car to attempt to pacify the crowd, three people held him while others slapped and punched him; when Choudhury fell to the ground, people kicked him, he told CPJ.

Three unidentified men intervened and convinced the group to stop beating Choudhury, and then escorted him back to his vehicle, he said. Choudhury told CPJ he suffered bruises on his face but did not need to be hospitalized following the attack. He told CPJ that his camera operator was also with him in their car, but was not attacked.

On December 15, 2019, at Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, police officers assaulted journalists covering student protests, according to a report by the Asian News International news agency and journalists who spoke to CPJ.

BBC reporter Bushra Sheikh told the news agency that police officers pulled her hair, broke her phone, and hit her with a baton.

Police officers at the university also hit Shaheen Abdulla, a journalist with news website Maktoob Media, with batons, causing injuries “all over” his body, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via phone, and a report by his employer. A video of the attack shared on social media was viewed more than 950,000 times. Abdulla told CPJ that he lodged a complaint against the police at the New Friends Colony police station in New Delhi.

Police at the university protest also hit Shariq Adeel Yousuf, a reporter with the YouTube channel Pal Pal News, with batons, confiscated his press card, and stomped on his phone to break it, Yousuf told the Committee Against Assault on Journalists, a local press freedom group.

On December 17, in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir state, police attacked Azaan Javaid, a journalist with news website The Print, and Anees Zargar with news website The Newsclick, while they were covering protests at Srinagar’s Islamia College of Science and Commerce, according to news reports.

Police officers punched and slapped the journalists, and confiscated their mobile phones, but did not cause serious injuries, Javaid told CPJ in a phone interview. Javid told CPJ that local authorities promised an investigation into the incident within 10 days, but said he had not received any updates by January 16.

On December 20, in Uttar Pradesh, police detained Omar Rashid, a journalist with The Hindu newspaper, according to a first-person report he published in the paper. Police threatened to charge him with criminal conspiracy for being “part of the arsonists who vandalized police property and engaged in violence during the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act,” Rashid wrote.

Police detained him for several hours despite Rashid’s repeated assertions that he was a journalist and had not taken part in arson; authorities released him that night without charge, he wrote.

Also on December 20, in Mangalore, Karnataka state, police detained at least eight journalists reporting for Kerala-based television outlets Asianet News, News 18, MediaOne, and TwentyFour News24, according to a report by The Hindu.

Karnataka police confiscated the journalists’ equipment and refused to acknowledge their credentials, Mujeeb Cheriyamburam, an Asianet News reporter who was among the detained journalists, told CPJ via phone. Authorities held the journalists for about seven hours before returning their equipment and transferring them to the Kerala police, who released them without charge, Cheriyamburam said.

CPJ sent text messages to spokespeople of the Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka police requesting comment, but did not receive any responses.

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