Indian authorities must conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into the police harassment, assault, and detention of journalist Sakshi Joshi and hold the officers responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
At around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 3, police in the capital city of Delhi confronted Joshi while she attempted to cover a protest, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and a statement by Digipub, an association of digital media journalists of which Joshi is a member.
Joshi, an independent journalist who posts her reporting on YouTube, was attempting to film the deployment of police to the site of a protest held by women wrestlers over alleged sexual harassment when a woman police officer ordered her to stop recording, she said.
A group of officers then grabbed Joshi, pulled her hair, and ripped her pants before pushing her into a police bus, according to those sources. She was detained for about an hour and was then released without charge, she said.
“The harassment, assault, and apparently unlawful detention of journalist Sakshi Joshi while covering a protest against sexual harassment, on World Press Freedom Day, highlight the unsafe environment for women journalists in India,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Indian authorities must swiftly hold all officers involved in this incident to account and ensure that the press may freely and safely cover critical events of public interest.”
Joshi, whose YouTube channel covering politics and social issues has over 840,000 subscribers, arrived at the scene after police reportedly assaulted women athletes protesting alleged sexual harassment by the head of the country’s wrestling foundation, who is also a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Joshi told CPJ that she had identified the senior officer who ordered her arrest as Hemant Tiwari. Joshi can be seen in a video of the incident she posted to Twitter asking Tiwari why she was being detained, to which he responded, “we will tell you later.”
She said that all of the police officers who assaulted her were women, and that they seized her phone while she was being detained but returned it while on the police bus. At around 1:30 a.m., Joshi was brought to Delhi’s Mandir Marg police station, where she asked a police constable to explain why she was detained, and he told her he could not provide an answer.
Officers then released Joshi, leaving her alone outside the locked gate of the police station with her clothes ripped in the middle of the night, according to Digipub and the journalist. She said her husband picked her up about 25 minutes later.
In her May 4 complaint to the Delhi Police Commissioner, reviewed by CPJ, Joshi contested her detention on the grounds that it violated a section of India’s criminal procedure code providing that no woman shall be arrested between sunset and sunrise without the prior permission of a judicial magistrate obtained by a woman police officer.
When reached via phone call, Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Suman Nalwa declined to immediately comment, saying she was unaware of the details of the case. CPJ called and messaged Tiwari for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.