On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, a group of journalists in Tripura donned black ribbons as a mark of protest over Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb’s comments against the media and his alleged assault on freedom of expression.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of Tripura’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Sabroom on September 11, Deb had said that a section of ‘over-excited newspapers are trying to confuse people over COVID-19’ and that he would not forgive such newspapers ever.
Journalists have claimed that the chief minister’s remark was a threat and assault on press freedom’. They had served a 3-day deadline to him for withdrawing his comments. As the deadline expired, the CM didn’t retract his comments but went soft, saying he didn’t mean to threaten anyone in his speech.
Subal Kumar Dey, Agartala Press Club president and convener of Tripura Association of Journalists (TAJ), which organized the protest, said, “We, as mediapersons carry out our duty on behalf of the people. But our rights and right to freedom and expression are being trampled in the last 30 months, unlike even the Emergency”.
He also said orders – written and unwritten – from the government have gagged officials from speaking to mediapersons, scuttling the right to express. He added, “Journalists and correspondents are frequently summoned to police stations to victimize them; (they are) threatened and assaulted in different parts of the state without legal recourse.”
He said TAJ had earlier met Governor RK Bais seeking recourse on the issue and added that the organisation would continue the movement including communicating with the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Press Council of India etc.
Paramita Livingstone, Executive Editor of Dainik Sambad, a leading vernacular daily of Tripura which was served notices, said the Chief Minister has taken certain news contents personally. She also alleged that a certain minister of the state cabinet had called her and ‘threatened’ her over reporting of the newspaper.
Accusing the government of intolerance, the agitating journalist body demanded the government to retract gag order on officials against speaking to the media, and sought withdrawal of the CM’s comments and justice for journalists who were assaulted after the CM’s remark.
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