Indian authorities should thoroughly and transparently investigate the recent police beating of journalists Kanishk Tiwari and Aditya Singh Bhadauria, and hold the officers responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On April 2, police in the central state of Madhya Pradesh arrested Tiwari, a reporter, and Bhadauria, a camera operator, while they covered a protest against the arrest of a theater artist at the Kotwali Police Station in the state’s Sidhi district, according to various news reports and Tiwari, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
At a local police station, an officer forced the journalists and six protesters to strip to their underwear, photographed them, posted that photo to social media, and threatened to parade the journalists through the city naked if they covered the protest, according to those sources.
Over the course of 18 hours, officers beat both journalists with plastic tubes and pulled their hair; the following day, they were released after police opened an investigation into allegations that they joined an assembly that was likely to cause a disturbance, Tiwari said.
“Indian authorities’ brutal treatment of journalists Kanishk Tiwari and Aditya Singh Bhadauria is totally unacceptable, and the police officers responsible for beating and humiliating them must be held to account,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Authorities must ensure that the journalists can work freely and without legal harassment, and that a clear message is sent to those who attempt to stifle the press.”
If charged and convicted of joining an assembly likely to cause a disturbance, the journalists could face up to six months imprisonment and a fine under Indian law.
Tiwari runs the YouTube news channel MP Sandesh News 24, which has about 170,000 subscribers and covers local news throughout the region.
After their release, Tiwari told CPJ that he received medical treatment at a local facility and also requested a medical exam from state authorities, but had not received a response to that request.
According to the Indian Express, station house officer Abhishek Singh Parihar, whom Tiwari alleged photographed and threatened the journalists, and another police official have been removed from their posts, and state authorities are investigating the incident.
CPJ was unable to find any contact information for Parihar. CPJ emailed Madhya Pradesh Police Director-General Sudhir Kumar Saxena for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.