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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tripura: Amid standoff, journalists say won’t accept CM Biplab Deb’s invite

Scribes in Tripura have been protesting against remarks made by Biplab Deb in September, when he said some ‘over-excited newspapers were trying to confuse people over COVID-19’and he would ‘not forgive them’.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala | Updated: October 20, 2020 9:13:07 pm
Tripura, Tripura journalists, biplab kumar deb, Tripura CM journalists, press freedom india, indian expressJournalists have demanded that the CM express regret over his remarks. (File)

Amid a month of protests by Tripura journalists against Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb’s comments on the fraternity, scribes here have turned down his offer for dialogue, saying they wouldn’t accept any invitation from the government unless the CM withdraws his comments.

On September 11, Deb, while describing his government’s steps to contain the pandemic, had said a section of ‘over-excited newspapers were trying to confuse people over COVID-19’, and he would ‘not forgive such newspapers ever’. Journalists had called the statement a ‘threat’ and an assault on press freedom. Ever since, they have been demanding that the CM express regret over his remarks.

On Tuesday, Subal Kumar Dey, chairperson and president of Agartala Press Club, said the invitation to a few journalists was an attempt to derail the scribes’ movement for press freedom.

“Assembly of Journalists (a Tripura body) feels the invitation to editors and senior journalists, after threatening the media and the inaction on several assaults on mediapersons, was given out with specific interests in mind. We feel the administration took this step to create a sense of distrust among journalists of the state,” Dey said, adding that no member of AOJ accepted the invitation.

An official from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), however, denied rolling out any invitation to any executive or leader of AOJ.

“The CM hasn’t invited anyone from Assembly of Journalists. He might have invited some mediapersons, but in their individual capacity, not on behalf of any organisation,” the official said.

He maintained that the CM’s September speech was taken out of context and distorted.

Immediately after the speech, journalists in the state had given Deb three days to withdraw his comments. While the CM didn’t retract, he softened his tone, saying he didn’t mean to threaten anyone in his speech.

In the meantime, journalists met Governor RK Bais, seeking his intervention in the matter. They also donned black ribbons on Gandhi Jayanti.

The AOJ then wrote to PM Modi, Home Minister Shah and the Press Council of India, stating the at least six journalists had been assaulted in the state since the CM’s comments and despite complaints being filed, no progress in investigation was found in any of them.

Journalist succumbs to Covid-19, first in Tripura

Journalist Jitendra Debbarma (46) died of Covid-19 Tuesday at a hospital in Khumulwng –– the first death due to coronavirus of a journalist in Tripura.

Jitendra was engaged with Chini Khorang, a local Kokborok cable TV channel.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Ranjit Debbarma, Managing Director of Chini Khorang, said Jitendra had been suffering from mild fever and other associated symptoms for the past seven days.

After he developed respiratory problems Monday night, he was rushed to Khumulwng Hospital at Khumulwng, headquarters of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).

“He tested positive for coronavirus Tuesday. He was given oxygen support. But his condition was already serious and he succumbed soon after,” Ranjit Debbarma said.

Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb offered condolences to the journalist’s family.

“Video journalist of Chini Khorang Jitendra Debbarma has passed away after being afflicted by coronavirus. I am deeply saddened by the demise of this young video journalist. I offer respects to the departed soul, condolences to the bereaved family members,” Deb wrote on social media.

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