Monitoring Desk: “Local Media of Tripura in Assam was harassed, commercially penalized, and physically manhandled by the state government as well as of Hindutva mobs in Indian Tripura State for stopping the media to report facts”.
These were findings of a Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Attacks on Media Freedom in Tripura sent by the Editors’ Guild of India.
After reports of the Tripura government using draconian laws to deter journalists and civil society activists from reporting on the communal violence in the state began to cause major concern, the Editors’ Guild of India decided to send a three-member fact-finding team to the state. The members of the team were independent journalist Bharat Bhushan, General Secretary of the Editors’ Guild, Sanjay Kapoor, and Editor of ‘Imphal Review of Arts and Politics’ Pradip Phanjoubam. The team visited Tripura from November 28 to December 1, 2021. It met a cross-section of journalists, representatives of the state government, including the Chief Minister, ministers, and the Director-General of Police, as well as civil society activists, to assess the state of media freedom in Tripura.
It may be mentioned that Indian Northeastern State Tripura witnessed an alarming series of communal violence and targeted attacks against Muslims in September 2021.
According to information relayed by local activists and residents, there have been at least 27 confirmed incidents of Hindutva mobs attacking mosques, houses, and individuals in Muslim areas. These include 16 incidents where mosques were vandalized and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) flags were forcibly hoisted on them. At least three mosques, Palbazar mosque in Unnakoti district, Dogra Masjid in Gomati district, and Narola Tila in Vishalgarh were set on fire.
Muslim houses had been pelted with stones and houses of prominent Muslims being targeted and vandalized. Almost all of these attacks were carried out by various right-wing groups including VHP that had ostensibly gathered to protest anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh.
The government had been insisting that the situation was normal and continues to blame incidents in Bangladesh for the violence in the state.
The final report released by the Fact-Finding Committee indicates gross violations, intimidation, and ruthless use of force against media to snub the fact.
It may be mentioned that the premises of two television channels, PB 24 News and Duranta TV, and three daily newspapers, Pratibadi Kalam, Kalmer Shakti, and Daily Deshar Katha, were vandalized during an unauthorized Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rally in Tripura on September 8. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliates the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and the National Union of Journalists India (NUJ-I) condemned these attacks to media organizations and demand the immediate apprehension of all perpetrators.
The report, in its conclusion, said, “the Tripura Police and the administration have displayed lack of professionalism and integrity in dealing with the communal conflict and with those reporting on the issue”.