Delhi Police on Saturday night detained two journalists, who were covering the farmers' protests at Singhu border, for allegedly misbehaving with police personnel deployed at the protest site. Both journalists have been identified as Mandeep Punia and Dharmender Singh. While Singh was later released after he signed an undertaking, the police arrested Punia on Sunday.
Punia, a freelance journalist, was presented before a magistrate at the Tihar Court Complex today morning, after being booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court has sent him to 14-day judicial custody and set the bail hearing for tomorrow, NDTV quoted his lawyer as saying.
Reacting to this, media bodies have condemned the police action against the two journalists. They said such crackdowns impinge on the media's right to report freely and interferes with its right to freedom of expression.
The Indian Women's Press Corps, Press Club of India and the Press Association demanded Punia's immediate release and said no journalist should be disturbed while carrying out their duties at any place.
"Such crackdowns impinge on the media's right to report freely and interferes with our right to freedom of expression, and freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution of India," the bodies said in a joint statement. They said Punia has been reporting on the present farmers' agitation right from the beginning and his arrest "is part of the government crackdown on journalists to prevent them from doing their job independently and freely." "Punia is a young freelance journalist who contributes to The Caravan and Junputh. The Delhi Police used brutal force while picking him up (on Saturday) and did not share his whereabouts to other media colleague entire night," the media bodies said.
They said the copy of the FIR against Punia was issued only this morning. Four IPC sections — 186 (voluntarily obstructing public servant in discharge of his duties), 353 (assaulting or using criminal force on a public servant in execution of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant in the discharge of his duty) and 34 (acts done in furtherance to common intention) have been pressed against him, they said.
In its defence, Delhi Police had earlier said that they placed barricades at the border following the violence on Friday to ensure that no one could get through. However, some people including the journalist were trying to remove the barricades, the police had alleged, adding the scribe also misbehaved with the police personnel there.
For the unversed, on Friday, clashes broke out at Singhu border between farmers and a large group of men claiming to be local residents who hurled stones at each other. The Singhu border is one of the main protest sites against the new farm laws. Delhi Police SHO (Alipur) was injured in the violence.
At least 44 people, including the man who attacked the SHO, have been arrested in connection with the incident.
(with inputs from PTI)