A group of people suspected of being supporters of the far-right Shiv Sena political party attacked several journalists including the producer, Rahul Zori, during a live broadcast of a show for the privately owned broadcaster TV9 Marathi. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Maharashtra police to thoroughly investigate the attack and take action against those responsible.
Zori told CPJ that on August 25, a group of activists he believes are affiliated with Shiv Sena beat him and several other journalists during the filming of “Maharashtrachya Manat Kay” (What is in the mind of the people of Maharashtra) that was being broadcast live from a gymnasium in Amravati, Maharashtra state, according to Zori and the Times of India. Footage of the event appears to show a group of attackers being led by Prashant Wankhade, an elected Shiv Sena representative.
Zori told CPJ that “the Shiv Sena activists started creating a ruckus” when the station broadcast the results of an opinion poll showing nearly 60 percent of Amravati residents said they wanted to vote out Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Anand Rao Adsul.
“This kind of open, unprovoked attack on journalists requires a swift and stern response from authorities in Maharashtra,” said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia program coordinator in Washington, D.C. “State authorities should take steps to prove they will not tolerate such violent attempts to silence journalists, who perform a vital role in informing the public.”
Zori told CPJ that a crowd of about 10 people attacked him, along with the show’s anchor, Gajanan Umathe, a local reporter, Surendra Akhode, as well as camera operators and other producers. Zori said that when the crowd realized that he was the main producer of the show, they surrounded him. “They threatened to kill me and started beating me up. One of them strangled my throat,” he said.
The journalist said that by the time the police arrived the people who carried out the attack had fled. Zori said that he was not seriously injured and that he was examined by a government doctor before he filed a complaint to the police. The other journalists were not seriously injured, Zori said.
In his police complaint, seen by CPJ, Zori alleged that a gang of Shiv Sena activists led by Wankhade, attacked and attempted to kill him.
Police arrested Wankhade and two others on August 25, and released them on bail pending the investigation the following day, Shashikant Satav, Deputy Commissioner of Police for Amravati police told CPJ.
Wankhade did not respond to CPJ’s text message requesting comment. After the arrests, MP Adsul issued an apology, according to reports. In it, Adsul said only one member of the party was involved, and that he would request that the person is expelled.
Zori told CPJ he believes that Adsul pressured police to not carry out a proper investigation.
Adsul denied that he put pressure on the police and told CPJ, “I have already apologized, what is the need to raise this issue?”
The deputy police commissioner also denied the claim and said that police have acted properly on the journalist’s complaint.