ITANAGAR, Jun 30: Condemnations against the physical assault on a journalist in the capital region on Monday have started pouring in here from different quarters.
Strongly condemning the assault on journalist Hofe Dada of digital media outlet ‘Gyoloo News’ by four men at the premises of a factory of SMS Smelters Ltd, in Lekhi village, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) demanded that the culprits be brought to book immediately.
Dada had gone to the SMS Smelters Ltd Salasar factory on Monday, to do a report on it as it is categorised under “Red” (highly polluting industries), having maximum production capacity of 1000M/T annually.
Set up in 2004, it is in the heart of the thickly populated township at Lekhi, Naharlagun, spews out plume of smoke from its chimneys visible from miles and has impacted the lives of residents of Lekhi, Model village and Nirjuli areas. Dada was accosted by the four men and threatened not to report or else he would meet the same fate as senior journalist Tongam Rina, who was shot at her office in Itanagar in 2012.
The men were unwilling to heed to his pleas that the factory had affected the lives of the villagers and he was forced to leave after he was allegedly slapped by one of them without any provocation. He has filed a complaint at the Nirjuli Police Station and case has been registered.
Joining its affiliate, the Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ), IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary general Sabina Inderjit said in a statement that attempts to intimidate the media in the State are growing and the government must ensure safety of journalists.
“It’s clear that the four men blocked Dada from carrying out his duty and it was attempt to gag freedom of press. As the case is registered, the IJU demands that police expedite investigations and take necessary action against the culprits, to send a strong message that such attempts to harass the journalists are not acceptable,” it added.
APUWJ president Amar Sangno, in a statement here urged the state police to take stringent action against the culprits for assaulting journalist.
Drawing the state police attention towards the Tongam Rina shooting incident, Sangno expressed concern over the repeated reference to the shooting incident by criminals and stated that such references by criminals against journalists reflect how criminals undermine the laws.
“Tongam Rina did not get justice from shooting incident which has emboldened the perpetrators to target media persons,” he rued.
Sangno has, in the meantime, expressed gratitude on behalf of the state press fraternity to the police for apprehending the main accused within such a short period.
Expressing its concern over the assault on Hofe Dada while reporting on SMS Smelters Ltd in Lekhi village, Arunachal Pradesh Women’s Welfare Society (APWWS) said media should be allowed to do its work without any threat or intimidation from any corner.
“The Govt of Arunachal should ensure free and fair environment for reporting. We urge the police to arrest all the culprits involved and to file a credible case so that such assaults are not repeated,” it said.
There have been many instances of assault on media in the state but none of the perpetrators have been arrested. We request the authority to kindly expedite all the necessary steps to give justice to media people.
“Fast track of such cases is only way to prevent goons from taking law into hands,” the APWWS suggested.
Regarding the alleged emission of toxic gas from the SMS Smelters Ltd, it said, the Arunachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board should take up the issue seriously to prevent further public health hazard in the surrounding area.
Saddened by the news about the physical assault and verbal threat issued to the young reporter Hofe Dada while he was reporting on industrial pollution caused by SMS factory, Lekhi village, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) said although there are reports coming in of one accused getting arrested today, we demand exemplary punishment to all those involved in the same.
The Union is of the observation that despite facing serious hardships and lack of additional benefits, people associated with press & media have been diligently doing their job. “We appeal everyone to respect the dignity and freedom of the press and media persons.”
“Over the years, attacks on press and media people have also been constantly reported. We call on everyone to stop attack on the fourth estate,” the AAPSU appealed.
“We demand the State Government & the Police in particular to initiate stringent measures for safety and security of the Press & media persons so that adequate deterrent is put in place against any such attacks in the future,” it added.
The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) also vehemently condemned the physical assault and verbal threat to the reporter of Gyoloo News. “The attack on the fourth pillar of democracy is nowhere acceptable,” the HRLN added.