It was only one man, protesting, and silently, while doing his job. In a picture that’s being widely shared, photojournalist Jayamohan Thampy is seen standing in front of the dais at the Kollam Press Club, with a seemingly disturbed K Surendran, BJP general secretary, on the stage. Jayamohan has a camera in his hand, and a piece of black cloth tied over his mouth. It is his one-man protest for being beaten up by a right-wing hartal supporter on Thursday in Kollam.
On that Thursday (January 3), Surendran realised that a press conference he called in Kozhikode was being boycotted by most of the media in Kerala. The Kerala Union of Working Journalists of respective districts had decided to do so in protest against an unusual number of attacks on reporters and photographers doing their duty, covering the hartal called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, angry over the entry of women of a certain age in Sabarimala.
“I was hit on my head that day and hospitalised for a couple of days. Journalists carried out a small protest the day after the attack. But, they could not continue with the protests later on; they’d need to answer their employers,” Jayamohan says.
When he heard about Surendran’s press conference in Kollam scheduled at the press club on Monday afternoon, Jayamohan spoke to the Press Club Secretary and the President about it. “They told me the BJP leaders have the right to hold a conference there and I told them that I have the right to protest.” So Jayamohan decided to have his own kind of protest, even as he did his duty, and clicked photos of the conference.
“He (Surendran) noticed my black-cloth protest and came down from the stage to express his regrets about the attack on me,” Jayamohan says.
On Thursday, journalists had boycotted two press conferences – one by Surendran in Kozhikode and the other by BJP State President PS Sreedharan Pillai in Thiruvananthapuram. Surendran had then put up a long post on Facebook that it was not journalistic ethics to not cover what they (the BJP) had to say.