Republic TV journalist arrested while covering Sandeshkhali protests

Responding to the arrest, Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami slammed the WB govt and alleged that they were trying to silence reporters from covering events in Sandeshkhali.
Republic TV journalist Santu Pan
Republic TV journalist Santu Pan
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A journalist for Republic TV Bangala who was reporting live on the tense situation at Sandeshkhali in West Bengal was suddenly taken into police custody on February 19. Footage shows police dragging the journalist, Santu Pan, away from the protest site in Sandeshkhali, 24 Parganas district, where protests and violence have been ongoing demanding the arrest of absconding Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan. Earlier, police arrested Sibu Hazra, Sheikh’s aide, both of who have been accused by many women in Sandeshkhali of land grabbing and sexual harassment. 

Police alleged that Santu was arrested on charges of trespassing and outraging the modesty of a woman. Responding to the arrest, Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, went on air to condemn West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Arnab said, “My reporter was not allowed to take public transport, was made to stand for three to four hours in one place, after which he was physically dragged without being served any notice. Even a murderer is given a chance to prove his innocence.” He further alleged that the West Bengal government was trying to silence reporters from covering events in Sandeshkhali. 

The Editors Guild of India expressed its concerns at the arrest of the TV journalist. “Santu Pan was reporting live on television when he was whisked away by policemen. His arrest while on duty is worrisome. The police should certainly investigate if allegations have been levelled against the journalist. But to take him away while he is reporting is indeed a cause for concern. The Editors Guild calls on the administration in West Bengal to conduct a speedy inquiry and ensure that no injustice is done to Mr Pan. The government must also do everything it can to protect freedom of the press.”

Violence first erupted in Sandeshkhali after ED and CAPF personnel attacked TMC members. Sheikh Shahjahan is the alleged mastermind behind the attack. But since then, protests have broken out against residents of Sandeshkhali who have alleged systemic abuses by TMC. Residents have also alleged a ‘reign of terror’ by TMC in the area, including repeated sexual harassment and sexual assault of women. Sheikh Shahjahan has been named as one of the perpetrators by the women. 

Read: Systemic Sexual Assault, an Oppressive TMC and Not Much Recourse: What Sandeshkhali Villagers Say 

On February 18, the women of Sandeshkhali raised slogans of ‘thief-thief’  and ‘rapist-rapist’ when Shibu Hazra, who had been booked under charges of rape and attempt to murder, was brought to a district court.  

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