When Suman Pandey, who was covering the meeting for The Voices news website, filmed a scuffle among BJP members, he was attacked and beaten by local BJP leaders, who injured his head in the course of forcing him to delete the video footage he had recorded on his mobile phone.
Four local BJP leaders, including the BJP’s president in Raipur, presented themselves to the police after Pandey filed a complaint. As well as attacking Pandey, they were also accused of attacking an unidentified woman journalist and Vinod Dongre, another reporter for The Voices, who was also injured.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that political party officials should target a journalist and sabotage his work with such violence,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We urge the BJP leadership to immediately suspend the four BJP members who attacked press freedom, which is one of democracy’s foundations. With just weeks to go to general elections, political leaders must set an example of responsibility to their members by demonstrating a clear respect for the fourth estate.”
This case is yet further evidence, if any were needed, of the devastating effects of almost daily violence against journalists. RSF has learned that, when Pandey’s four attackers left the police station, BJP members greeted them with “maalais” (garlands of flowers).
On the evening of 2 February, journalists who gathered in protest against the attack were themselves threatened by members of the BJP youth league armed with knives, but police intervened to prevent violence.
RSF issued an “incident report” in July about the danger that India will fall further in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, above all because of an increase in abuses and violence against journalists. India is currently ranked 138th out of 180 countries.