In yet another case of media rights violation, personnel of the Jat regiment and other Central forces physically assaulted three journalists covering the resurgence of violence at New Checkon, Imphal on Monday.
The unfortunate incident unfolded along Chassad Avenue when the three journalists were capturing a footage of a burning building from an unfinished structure near Brighter Academy School, New Checkon, Imphal.
The three journalists who were assaulted are Soram Inaoba, Nongthombam Johnson and Brahmacharimayum Dayananda. No major injuries were reported.
As per report, the three media persons along with few other journalists were taking photos and videos of the arson from the said structure when personnel of the Jat Regiment, who were spread out below the building accused the media persons of pelting stones at the UAV reportedly operated by the Security Forces.
According to the three media persons, they were waving away the drone as it had gotten too close to them. None of us pelted anything at the drone, they added.
They alleged that personnel of the Jat Regiment and other Central forces intentionally targeted the media persons.
“We did not do anything except wave away the drone but they took that chance to accuse us and manhandle the journalists who were performing their duty; we were all in our PRESS embossed vest, they could easily identify us but instead they poured out their rage on us,” they said.
They stated that the personnel came up to the building and started assaulting the journalists on top of a building.
"They dragged us down, tearing off our vests and started beating us without any hesitation," they added.
They maintained that things could have gotten worse if state forces did not intervene to stop the incident.
Taking note of the issue, the All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) convened an emergency meeting at Manipur Press Club and took the statements of the three assaulted journalists.
Later, the AMJWU, Editors’ Guild Manipur (EGM) and the Manipur Hill Journalists Union (MJHU) demanded the suspension of the security persons involved in the assault within 48 hours and warned that media houses in Manipur will boycott all press releases, hand outs and press conferences related to the central paramilitary forces and armed forces operating in Manipur if the demand was not fulfilled.
In a complaint filed to the chief minister and the chief security advisor, the three media apex bodies condemned the manner in which the security forces, especially the Jat Regiment and other Central forces had intentionally targeted media persons who were performing their legitimate duty.
The complaint stated that the media persons were identifiable by their PRESS embossed vest and that personnel of the Jat regiment completely discarded media neutrality. At least three media persons, including an AMWJU member were beaten by the security.
The complaint added that video recordings and statements of the assaulted media persons proved that the assault was not made in the heat of controlling mobs and that there was a gross violation of the right of the media to cover an incident, when they are assaulted even after they have been identified as a media person on duty.
The complaint also mentioned another incident on Monday where a media person was held at gunpoint by a two star officer of the Jat Regiment and his guards. The officer reportedly grabbed the mobile used by the journalists and deleted photos and video taken by the mediapersons.
The three media bodies requested authorities to take up the issue as early as possible so that the media in Manipur can work normally as before.