Separate incidents of violence against journalists in Delhi and Bengaluru

Three journalists working for The Caravan were attacked by a mob in North East Delhi’s North Ghonda area. Journalists were attacked by both police and the mob in Bengaluru while covering violence in Banaswadi.

Two separate incidents of violence against journalists were recorded on August 11, 2020 in Delhi and Bengaluru respectively. Contributor to The Caravan Prabhijit Singh, Assistant Photo Editor, Shahid Tantray, and a female journalist working for the magazine were attacked by a mob in north-east Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood. The journalists were reporting on communal tensions in the area following the August 5 Bhoomi Poojan in Ayodhya.

The journalists were attacked by around 100 people and were asked to delete their recordings, which included statements of Muslim families living in the area. Shahid Tantray, was targeted after the mob realised he was a Muslim based on his identity card. The woman journalist was physically and sexually assaulted. The incident happened when the journalists were shooting footage of saffron flags erected on a house in a narrow lane in Subash Mohalla. According to the journalists, passers-by, allegedly belonging to the BJP, objected to the filming and despite the journalists requesting them to speak to them and record their concerns, began insulting them. They noted that the crowd got more aggressive after realising that Tantray was a Muslim.

The journalists claimed that the police, who were called by people in the crowd, did not help in controlling the violence against them. The journalists, who had been covering consistently on the North-East Delhi riots in February, were in the area to speak to Muslim women and their families who had allegedly been physically and sexually harassed by the police at the Bhajanpura police station on the night of August 8. The women had gone to the police station to record complaints of alleged insults and communalising atmosphere by Hindu residents in the area on the eve of the Bhoomi poojan in Ayodhya.

In a separate incident of violence in Bengaluru, journalists belonging to The News Minute, India Today group, and Suvarna News 24×7 were attacked by policemen and the mob, when they went to cover the violence that broke out in Banaswadi on the night of August 11. According to India Today group journalist Nolan Pinto, he suffered injuries to his head and The News Minute’s Prajwal Bhat was hit on the thigh by policemen who were trying to disperse the journalists covering the violence, late in the evening. Ravi Kumar PS and his colleagues, Pradeep KM and Rudresh BV, at Suvarna News 24×7 were attacked by members of the mob and their equipment was destroyed when they went to cover the violence. The violence began after a social media post derogatory of the Prophet Muhammad was allegedly posted by Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy’s nephew Naveen.

The attack on the journalists was condemned by the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Editors’ Guild of India. Terming the attacks in the national capital as ‘ominous’, the Delhi Union of Journalists said that ‘such attacks threaten the entire journalist community and are attacks on the freedom of the press and democracy.’ The Editors’ Guild called both the attacks ‘reprehensible’ and called out the ‘indifferent’ attitude of the law enforcement agencies in the Delhi incident and its subsequent ‘failure’ in discharging its responsibilities in the Bengaluru incident.

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Lebanon’s parliament approves state of emergency in Beirut

Journalists and civil rights groups fear curb on freedom of speech and expression

Lebanon’s parliament approved a state of emergency in its capital, Beirut on August 13, 2020 – a week after the August 4 explosion at its port. The emergency motion faced little opposition in the Parliament. This move is said to extend upon the earlier two-week emergency declared by the cabinet in a session on the day of the blasts. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab was met with protests and demonstrations from the public following the blasts and resigned on August 10, 2020.

The move has been met with criticism from journalists and civil society members in the country who note that it gives widespread power to the army to curb freedom of speech and expression, prevent assemblies, make arbitrary arrests, impose curfews, censor media, and try civilians in military courts in the name of national security.

The blasts, widely reported as one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history, was fuelled by 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s ports for seven years, with the knowledge of the top officials in the government. The blasts added to the increasing displeasure among the public against the government over corruption, mismanagement, and a slowing economy which led to widespread protests in the country since 2019. The country is also reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic with its health infrastructure stretched to its maximum.

Members of key NGOs such as Legal Agenda, note that the state of emergency was unwarranted, given the general powers of mobilization given to the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Curbs on press freedom have been ongoing in Lebanon with journalists being summoned by authorities with no reasons given, attacked while covering protests that have frequently erupted in the country, and being denied permissions to cover specific areas, such as the Hamra street – an economic hub in the city, without the army’s approval.

The people of Lebanon are unsure on how long this state of emergency will continue. As reported by Al Jazeera on August 14, 2020, the blast killed at least 200 and injured around 6000 people.

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