The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) deplores the attack on the
media on Saturday, August 11, 2012, during the violence that broke out in
Mumbai by protestors of the riots in Assam. The BUJ is particularly
disturbed at what appears to be the sustained targeting of mediapersons and
technicians of outdoor broadcasting (OB) vans.

The protest over the killing of Muslims in Kokhrajar in Assam was called by
the Mumbai-based Raza Academy and a few other organisations. Two persons
died in the violence while several cars and shops were attacked and
destroyed. More than 50 persons , including policemen, were also injured.

When the violence broke out, photojournalists were chased and those
technicians in OB vans were told that they would be burnt along with the
vehicle if they didn’t step out!

Among those seriously injured are Vivek Bendre (The Hindu),  Prashant
Sawant (Sakal Times) and Atul Kamble (Mid-Day). They were admitted to St
George Hospital for treatment. The equipment of several camerapersons was
also damaged.

According to reports, speakers at the rally expressed ire at what they felt
was the media’s poor coverage of the riots in Assam.  When the violence
broke out, the rioters asked the identities of mediapersons and the media
they represented before attacking them. This clearly indicates that the
speeches may have incited the mob against the media and provoked the attack
on the media.

The BUJ condemns the inability of the police to act speedily and bring the
situation under control and calls the organisers to task for specially
targeting the media in their speeches. The media plays a crucial role in
disseminating information and any attempt to obstruct it is an attack on
freedom of expression. Sections of society may have reservations about the
media’s representation of their grievances but attacking the media is not
the way to redress these. Dialogue and engagement with the media is crucial
to preserving and protecting freedom of expression.

The BUJ demands that the organisers immediately rein in their members and
make amends for the violence they unleashed on the media. The BUJ demands
that the state government investigate whether there was clear provocation
for the attack on the media and whether there was dereliction of duty on
the party of police forces.