The Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP) strongly condemns the highhandedness of Bhubaneswar police in dealing with media persons while on professional duty. The latest example of such objectionable practice by the Commissionerate police was denying the city reporters of Odia daily Aaromv access to the venue of the 15th National Youth Conference.

The Odia daily Aaromv has come up with shocking reports about how the police prevented the entry of its reporter and photo-journalist at the Kalinga Stadium on Saturday. The report quotes the IIC, Saheed Nagar police station as saying that he had received instructions from top police bosses not to allow entry to Aaromv reporters and photo journalists! There is another report on how a young lady journalist from the same newspaper had to face humiliations at the hands of a senior police officer.

This is simply unacceptable. We demand a probe by the Chief Secretary, Odisha into the allegations because this is a very serious matter that threatens press freedom. We expect the inquiry report to be submitted within 15 days.

We have never claimed we are special citizens but surely we enjoy certain special rights while pursuing our professional assignments. It’s rather strange that neither the I&PR department nor the Bhubaneswar Police Commissionerate ever bothered to issue proper passes with photo identity to media persons. Nor did they earmark specific areas for coverage by the video journalists and photo journalists. That is one of the major causes behind the chaotic situation that prevailed on the inaugural ceremony of the NYF-15 and this lapse on the part of the organisers and the police need to be part of the Chief Secretary’s inquiry.

The police are free to impose reasonable restrictions on access and entry to ensure discipline and smooth flow of schedule in any public function. They also have the right to take to task any media person who violates law. But to single out one newspaper and its reporters for persecution is most condemnable. That the police felt aggrieved by negative reports in Aaromv is understandable but that does not give them the right or the authority to deny the Aaromv team access.

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak,
Prasanta Patnaik,
Rabi Das,
D.N. Singh,
Sudhir Patnaik,
Sampad Mohapatra,
Prafulla Das,
Gopal Mohapatra.

January 10, 2010.

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