I was thrashed by police for doing my job, says Bengaluru journalist

Apology for assault is unacceptable says Bengaluru journalist allegedly beaten up by policeImage: Sharan Gurikar at the protest
news Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 19:52

Journalists in Karnataka protested against the alleged assault on a television journalist during the garment workers protestson Tuesday and demanded strict action against the officials involved.

On Tuesday, as garment workers took to the streets protesting the central government’s change of rules on withdrawal of PF, police allegedly assaulted Sharan Gurikar, a journalist with Janashri News.

Speaking to The News Minute on the sidelines of a protest organized by the Press Club of Bangalore on Thursday, Sharan said “Five policemen dragged me into a building and thrashed me. Every time they came back after taking a break of a few seconds, the beating only got worse,” he said.

Sharan says that he was asked to cover the protests as it increased in scale and spiraled into violence. walking out of the channel’s office near Christ University on Hosur Road, he headed towards Silk Board junction where the protest was building up. Close to 15 women – some of them wounded – were walking on the road.

“They told me that a few policemen had thrashed them. As I was speaking to the women, Hulimavu police station Vijaykumar and five police personnel surrounded me and started abusing me. They said I was instigating violence, and did not believe me even when I showed them my press identity card.”

He said that attempted to reach the police commissioner over the phone but they dragged him to a building near Christ University and beat him for close to fifteen minutes.

“They kept saying that I was lying and I was creating a nuisance,” Sharan said, showing the bruises on his chest and hand. He added that he had more on his back and legs. “They broke the camera too, who will pay for that?” he asked.

 

He said that when he lodged a complaint with the Mico Layout police, they registered the FIR, and apologized to him. Sharan however, is not willing to let them off the hook, and says an investigation needs to be carried out and says action should be taken accordingly. “In India journalist's lives are valued very cheaply and we want to change that,” said Sridhar.

Bengaluru Police Commissioner NS Megharik could not be reached for comment, despite several attempts.

President of the Press Club of Bengaluru U Sridhar said that there should also be an enquiry into how male police personnel could hit women. “Doesn’t it make sense to have more women in the force when 80% of the protestors were women?,” he said.

Several journalists present at the protest felt that that what happened to Gurikar indicated the shrinking freedom of speech for journalists, and lack of safety for reporters. 

Shivanna, a reporter with a Kannada daily, said that the government had been targeting whistleblowers and RTI activists until now. “This incident makes us feel like they want to silence the media as well. No wonder India stands at 133rd position (Reporters Without Borders) when it comes to press freedom.”

However, Saggere Radhakrishna, a photographer with Karnataka Photo News, who was assaulted by the mob on Tuesdaysaid that the way people and the police react to the media had changed and that police personnel should be made aware about how to engage and interact with journalists.

“I have been in the profession for over 22 years and I have seen the transition. Until television journalism picked up, there wasn’t so much of media frenzy and police knew the small group of print journalists who existed. Now after TV journalism has picked up to this  extent, they aren’t able to handle the pressure. So even if a single newspaper carries anything negative about them, they develop a grudge against journalists in general. During protests like these, they release their pent up anger like this,” said Radhakrishna, who was also a victim of police assault during a protest in 1996.

Hassan journalists

Asked whether Thursday’s protest also included journalists in Hassan district, Sridhar said that it did not, as the Hassan incident was a social issue.

In the first week of April, two journalists, Krishnaiah and Vasanthaiah, were assaulted by a mob in Hassan district, over opposition to the temple entry of Dalits in Sigaranahalli village. A Dalit journalist name Vijay Kumar Sigaranahalli was allegedly forced to quit because of pressure brought on the management by the Janata Dal (Secular)’s leaders.

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