In a massive crackdown against the right to report, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra has arrested and jailed the reporting team of Republic TV, said a press release issued by the news channel.
According to the statement, journalist Anuj Kumar, along with video journalist Yashpaljit Singh and Ola cab driver Pradeep Dilip Dhanavade have been illegally taken into police custody by the Maharashtra police. The incident took place when the team was following a lead in an investigative assignment in Karjat in Raigad.
Maharashtra government arrested Republic TV journalists under trumped-up charges of trespassing
The Republic TV team was reportedly arrested and lodged in the jail for 4 days after they made an enquiry with the security guard of a certain residence in Karjat. The journalists and the cab driver were charged under the sections of trespassing and were denied legal representation before being thrown into the jail. In its statement, the Republic TV has alleged that its employees have been lodged in the jail based on trumped-up charges of trespassing.
“We are being informed that our reporter is being pressured by the state machinery in Maharashtra to reveal his story, his leads and his sources. Our reporter will not reveal the source or story. This stands in complete violation of the right to report protected by the Constitution of India,” the statement issued by the Republic TV Network said.
The statement further read, “The illegal detention of our reporter and video journalist is an attack on constitutionally guaranteed rights with a motivation to muzzle a free press, deny the right to report, and to deter any journalist from speaking truth to power and pursuing stories of public interest as the fourth pillar of our democracy.”
Journalists lodged in jail for 4 days and denied legal representation: Republic TV
The Republic TV has accused the Maharashtra government of “horrendous overreach”, stating the message being sent by Maharashtra government is clear that no journalist can report in Karjat, or near the Chief Minister’s residence. It further added that in a free democratic country, illegal detention of the journalists for 4 days without legal representation would amount to the most determined attack on media freedom.
The channel has raised questions over denial of legitimate legal representation to the journalists as well as denial of permission to communicate with the channel’s lawyer over the video link. It has also asked why its journalists were booked for trespassing when their intent was only to make official enquiries with the guard. Furthermore, the channel has alleged that a remand copy was not given to further block any possible legal recourse to ensure their reporting team can not exercise their rights under the law.
It has also speculated that the Inspector General’s personal intervention in the case to ensure the reporter and video journalist remain in jail may not be accidental. And lastly, the channel has questioned if Karjat is a forbidden zone for journalists who attempt to report and put out information in the public opinion.
Republic TV accuses Maharashtra government of malicious and motivated action to silence their reporters
The news channel has alleged that the action initiated by the government against its reporters is a part of a large pattern to try and block the Republic Media Network. “The sequence of events, the nature of the action and the motivated attempt to silence our reporters who pursue investigative stories reek of vindictive, malicious and vengeful action by the Maharashtra government against Republic Media Network, and its reporters,” the press release by Republic TV said.
Republic TV has stated that it would take every legal recourse available to fight the Maharashtra government’s dictatorial approach of using its state machinery against the journalists and raise the issue in every forum and stage by all means permitted under the law.