Women journalists, who were covering the Sabarimala protests, were hit, heckled, and the cars they were travelling were destroyed in Nilakkal.

NCW Network of Women in Media condemn attack on women journos in Kerala
news Sabarimala Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 17:18

The National Commission for Women and the Network of Women in Media took cognisance of the attack on women journalists while covering the events on Wednesday, the day the gates of the Sabarimala temple are scheduled to open. Women journalists were hit, heckled, and the cars they were travelling in destroyed. TNM’s Saritha Balan, Republic TV’s Pooja Prasanna, India Today’s Mausami Singh, CNN News18’s Radhika Ramaswamy and NDTV’s Sneha Koshy were either attacked or heckled. Reporter TV’s male reporter Rajeesh’s arm was fractured, and his cameraperson sustained injuries as well.  

The National Commission for Women is currently holding a meeting in order to decide on its future course of action. In a letter addressed Kerala DGP Loknath Behera, NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma asked for appropriate action to be taken.

Full text of the letter:

“The National Commission for Women has come across several media reports regarding the attack by a mob on journalists including women journalists en route Sabarimala in Kerala.

The Commission is seriously concerned about the reported incident. Moreover, it is the duty of the police to protect and provide safety and security for women. It is, therefore, directed that the Kerala Police should provide sufficient security to call women devotees of Sabarimala temple and women media personnel.

Considering the gravity of the matter, it is therefore requested that appropriate stringent action may be taken against people who are taking the law into their hands and a detailed action taken report in the matter may be intimated to the Commission at an early date…”

The Network of Women in Media condemned the attack on the women journalists and said that it is up to the government to ensure that mobs do not interfere with freedom of expression, the public’s right to information and the media’s right to report. They demanded that the Chief Minister takes immediate action against the agitators.

Read NWMI’s full statement here:

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) vehemently denounces the attacks on journalists, including several women journalists, at Nilackal/Sabarimala. Saritha S Balan of The Newsminute, Pooja Prasanna of Republic, Radhika Ramaswamy of CNN-News 18 and Maushumi Singh of India Today were attacked today while attempting to cover the situation at the entry point to the Sabarimala hill temple, scheduled to open for monthly rituals this evening. Yesterday several journalism students were stopped by protesters, mainly female, who were stopping and screening all vehicles bound for Pampa. It is up to the government to see that more names are not added to the list and that mob frenzy is not allowed to interfere with freedom of expression, the public's right to information and the media's responsibility to report on events and issues of public concern.  

The opening of the temple today marks the first time after the Supreme Court handed down its verdict allowing women of all ages to pray at the hill temple.  Until then girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age were not permitted to pray at the hill temple. Hundreds of protesters opposing the verdict have been camping at Nilackal over the past few days.  On Tuesday they began stopping and checking vehicles, including state-run buses, and forcibly turning back female passengers in the hitherto forbidden age group. Today they turned violent, attacking journalists, including women, who were there to do their jobs.

We demand that the Chief Minister and government of Kerala take immediate action against the agitators who let violent assailants loose on journalists, obstructing them from doing their duty. It is incumbent on the government to create a secure environment for journalists to report from Pamba and nearby areas on an issue that is of interest and concern to the public. The government must immediately ensure the safety of journalists and assure the media that the lives of reporters are not in danger.

The NWMI  condemn the attacks and urges support from civil society in Kerala to make sure that the media is able to cover this controversial issue without fear and that journalists are not harmed in the process of doing their jobs.