Journalists arrested for reporting on Tripura violence granted bail

Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha were arrested by the Tripura police based on a complaint by a Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist.
Swarna Jha and Samruddhi Sakunia, who were detained for a story
Swarna Jha and Samruddhi Sakunia, who were detained for a story
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Two Delhi-based journalists who were arrested for reporting on communal violence in Tripura, have been granted bail by a magistrate court in Tripura’s Gomati district. Samriddhi Sakunia (21) and Swarna Jha (25), who work with the independent news website HW News Network, were arrested at 1 am on November 15. The two were named in an FIR at the Fatikroy Police Station of Tripura on Sunday, November 14, based on a complaint filed by a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activist.

The complainant alleged that they had “maligned the image of the Tripura government” by their reporting. The VHP's complaint is regarding a story that the two journalists were reporting on, about a mosque that was reportedly burnt in Tripura’s Gomati district and that a copy of the Quran was allegedly damaged. Police claimed that the videos uploaded by one of the journalists, Samruddhi, were doctored, which has been denied by HW News.

Speaking about the bail that was granted, Sujit Nair, Editor-in-Chief of HW News, said, “The first thing to say is that our faith in the judicial system has become stronger now.” He further added that the matter of the credibility of the video is subjudice, “But we will definitely talk about it in the future.”

The two journalists were first detained in a hotel in Agartala, and then allowed to leave. Later, the Tripura police detained them from Assam, and were kept at a government-run shelter home for women for the night. Their arrest was officially registered late on Sunday night.

A press release issued from the office of Tripura Police Director General VS Yadav claimed that the posts by Sakunia were ‘not true’ and ‘promoted a sense of hatred between communities’. The statement further said that no damaged books or documents were brought to the notice of officials.

The arrest garnered widespread condemnation, including from the Editors Guild of India, the Network of Women in Media India and Digipub, who spoke out against the continued prosecution of the media by the government. 

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