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West Bengal: Police raids ABP Ananda journalist Prakash Sinha’s house, days after HC stayed FIR against channel’s anchor Suman De

Police claimed that the search was in relation to complaints of fraud and violation of the Wetland Conservation Act, saying that a case was registered against Prakash Sinha at the Narendrapur Police Station.

On 29th February, West Bengal police reached the house of ABP Ananda journalist Prakash Sinha before 6 AM and initiated a search operation. A police party from Narendrapur police station raided his house in Kolkata. They did not explain the reason behind the raid and stopped everyone from entering the residence.

ABP report said that the Police reached Sinha’s residence before 6 AM and started the search operation around 7 AM. Only those who came for work and presented their identity cards could enter the house. The police barricaded the gate and didn’t allow others to enter.

Later the police claimed that the search was in relation to complaints of fraud and violation of the Wetland Conservation Act, saying that a case was registered against Prakash Sinha at the Narendrapur Police Station. According to the police, the complainant said that he had given money to some people to buy a flat, but he didn’t get the flat as promised. Police said that searches have been conducted at several places in relation to the case. However, it is not clear if the journalist is accused of receiving the money.

However, the police reportedly found nothing to seize from the journalists. They however transferred some data from pen drive and laptop before leaving the house. The police team left the house at around 11 am after concluding the search.

Talking about the search, Prakash Sinha’s wife Shweta Sinha said that when the police team arrived, Prakash had gone for a morning walk as per his daily routine, and the other members of the family were sleeping. She said that a team of 10 to 12 cops visited the house, and they searched everything. She added that their daughter, who is appearing in high secondary exams, fainted twice after seeing so many policemen in the house.

This is the second ABP journalist to be targeted by the West Bengal police in this month. ABP Ananda news anchor Suman De was booked under Sections 153 and 505 of the IPC for making allegedly misleading claims pertaining to the Sandeshkhali protests on his Bengali news show ‘Ghantakhanek Songe Suman’. He accused of “promoting enmity” and “conducting public mischief” in a complaint filed by Sandeshkhali police Sub-Inspector Mohd Monaim Hassan.

It was alleged that Suman De had repeatedly said in his show that police didn’t seek custody of two persons arrested in relation to the Sandeshkhali events. Police said that this was false information.

However, the Calcutta High Court on Monday stayed the FIR and all proceedings against the journalist, saying that bona-fide mistake in reporting does not constitute real offence. De’s counsel had argued in the court that the mistake was an error without any mala fide intention as it was rectified multiple times and repeated apologies were made. The counsel said that the criminal case was filed after the journalist had tendered unconditional apology in his show.

BJP condemned raid on house of Prakash Sinha

Criticising the police action, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikari said that the raid at the house of journalist Prakash Sinha was a “concentrated attack on the Fourth Pillar of Democracy by the Fascist Mamata Govt”.

In a post on X, he condemned the police action and wrote, “The concerted attack on the Fourth Pillar of Democracy by the Fascist Mamata Govt continues… West Bengal police surrounds ABP Ananda TV  Journalist/Correspondent Shri Prakash Sinha’s home. Mamata Banerjee wants to stifle FREE PRESS. Either the media personnel must sing her paeans, or she will put them behind bars. She has been threatening the media personnel for quite some time now, asking them to fall in line. Now, she has unleashed the Police on them. I condemn this ongoing attack on the Media and blatant misuse of Police for intimidation and scaring the people associated with the News Media. It seems Mamata Banerjee hasn’t learned her lesson even after repeated denunciation by the Hon’ble Courts.”

Republic TV journalist covering Sadeshkhali arrested by WB police

On 19th February, Bengal police forcefully detained and apprehended Republic TV journalist Santu Pan, who was actively reporting on the Sandeshkhali incident. In the footage, numerous heavily armed police officers were observed shoving and rough-handling the journalist before forcibly removing him. Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari informed the Republic, “There’s utter chaos in Sandeshkhali. Women are being prevented from expressing themselves.”

Besides his relentless coverage of Sandeshkhali, Pan is known for asking hard-hitting questions to TMC strongman Abhishek Banerjee. His wife approached the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) the next day. The complaint copy details how the Mamata Banerjee government is stifling the voices of journalists and the media that has been trying to bring forth accounts of multiple women victimised by TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh and his aides in Sandeshkhali.

On 21st February, he was moved from Sandeskhali police station to an undisclosed location late at night. The men escorting him had covered faces, and their uniforms had no insignia.

On 22nd February, he was granted bail by the Calcutta High Court. The court has also stayed the probe against him. The Calcutta High Court said there is no clear explanation of the allegations against Republic Bangla reporter Santu Pan. The court focused heavily on the Mamata Banerjee government, asking, “Why this FIR shouldn’t be quashed”.

The court said, “Feel sorry for police officers. You have not been able to arrest real culprits. You are after an innocent journalist while the people who are not caught are making a mockery of the law. You want to put all your energy after this innocent journalist”.

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