The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) deplores the attack on the media on Saturday, August 11, 2012, during the violence that broke out in Mumbai by protestors of the riots in Assam. The BUJ is particularly disturbed at what appears to be the sustained targeting of media persons and technicians of outdoor broadcasting (OB) vans.
The protest over the killing of Muslims in Kokhrajar in Assam was called by the Mumbai-based Raza Academy and a few other organizations. Two persons died in the violence while several cars and shops were attacked and destroyed. More than 50 persons , including policemen, were also injured.
When the violence broke out, photojournalists were chased and those technicians in OB vans were told that they would be burnt along with the vehicle if they didn’t step out!
Among those seriously injured are Vivek Bendre (The Hindu), Prashant Sawant (Sakal Times) and Atul Kamble (Mid-Day). They were admitted to St George Hospital for treatment. The equipment of several camerapersons was also damaged.
According to reports, speakers at the rally expressed ire at what they felt was the media’s poor coverage of the riots in Assam. When the violence broke out, the rioters asked the identities of media persons and the media they represented before attacking them. This clearly indicates that the speeches may have incited the mob against the media and provoked the attack on the media.
The BUJ condemns the inability of the police to act speedily and bring the situation under control and calls the organizers to task for specially targeting the media in their speeches. The media plays a crucial role in disseminating information and any attempt to obstruct it is an attack on freedom of expression. Sections of society may have reservations about the media’s representation of their grievances but attacking the media is not the way to redress these. Dialogue and engagement with the media is crucial to preserving and protecting freedom of expression.
The BUJ demands that the organizers immediately rein in their members and make amends for the violence they unleashed on the media. The BUJ demands that the state government investigate whether there was clear provocation for the attack on the media and whether there was dereliction of duty on the party of police forces.