New Delhi, 16 December 2020: The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) today urged the Press Council of India (PCI) to postpone the hearing on 18th December 2020 regarding “suo motu cognisance with regard to alleged targeting of journalists for reporting during COVID-19 lockdown period in Odisha” and urged to issue notices to 19 other states and Union Territories (UTs) where the journalists were targeted for reporting during COVID-19 lockdown period.
The PCI took suo motu cognisance against the targeting of journalists in Odhisa only, formed an Inquiry Committee and made the RRAG the first respondent.
In its submission to the PCI today while requesting postponement of the hearing scheduled for 18 December and enlargement of the respondents, the RRAG stated that in its report, “India: Media’s Crackdown During COVID-19 Lockdown” of June 2020, the basis for making it the first respondent, it had provided specific cases of targeting of journalists for reporting in 19 other States and Union Territories in addition to Odisha. The RRAG report had stated, “A total of at least 55 journalists faced arrest, registration of FIRs, summons or show causes notices, physical assaults, alleged destruction of properties and threats for reportage on COVID-19 or exercising freedom of opinion and expression during the national lockdown from 25 March to 31 May 2020. The highest number of attacks in the media persons was reported from Uttar Pradesh (11 journalists), followed by Jammu & Kashmir (6 journalists), Himachal Pradesh (5), four each in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, two each in Punjab, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh & Kerala and one each in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Nagaland and Telangana.”
“Unless notices are issued to these 19 States and the Union Territories, the issuance of notice only to Odisha shall raise legitimate questions of bias on the part of the PCI and is unlikely to address the targeting of journalists for reporting during COVID-19 lockdown across the country.”- stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of the RAAG. [ENDs]