MEDIAPERSONS ON Tuesday took out a silent protest rally against the police attack on them during Monday’s clashes between the policemen and Left Front workers at various places in Kolkata and Howrah during a ‘March to Nabanna’ programme. Along with over 100 Left workers and 69 policemen, over 10 mediapersons, who were covering the incident, were beaten up, some of whom had to be hospitalised. Many had accused Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Aparajita Rai for leading the attack on mediapersons.
Joint Commissioner of Kolkata Police (Headquarters) Supratim Sarkar had said on Monday: “The attack on mediapersons is unwarranted. It is unfortunate and condemnable. We have got complaints that some policemen attacked mediapersons. We will definitely take action against them after identifying them. We will initiate departmental action against them.”
A senior journalist, on condition of anonymity, said: “We condemn the reckless and heavy-handed action of the police against journalists. We were there to do our job. I have been in this profession since 1995. This is the first time that I have seen police behave this badly. A woman IPS officer deliberately ordered a lathicharge on mediapersons. They were using filthy language… and were very abusive and violent… This is a way to suppress our voice.”
The rally, which started around 4.30 pm from Rabindra Sadan and ended at Kolkata Police headquarters Lalbazar, was joined by hundreds of mediapersons. They offered flowers to police officers deployed on the road to monitor the event. The mediapersons demanded that authorities immediately start a thorough and impartial investigation to identify and take action against police officers who had attacked them.
Several students from Mass Communication colleges too joined the protest. Aritri Bhattacharya, a student of a private media institute, said: “I have huge respect for this profession. If journalists are not allowed to speak, cover and broadcast an incident, then it’s an attack on democracy. Kolkata Police’s action was extremely immature, nothing can justify beating up and interfering with the work of journalists.”
As the rally ended, a six-member delegation from different media houses met Police Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and submitted a deputation. The letter to the CP stated: “This is to bring to your kind notice that journalists falling in the line of fire while performing duty is nothing new. Yet the most unfortunate and unprecedented part of yesterday’s attack was reporters with boom and camera in hands were targeted, resulting into severe injury. We want police to identify the police officers who did excess on media personnel. We demand 100 per cent transparency in the investigation.”
When contacted, a senior police officer said: “There was no need of such (police) action. It wasn’t handled well. This was avoidable. I think those who were on spot failed to understand the situation.”