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Spare the rod, free the media

Things spiralled out of control on Saturday afternoon in the city, as protests about ethnic violence in Assam and Myanmar got ugly and violent. The city press was present at the Maidan, venue for frequent protests and demonstrations. This one, too, seemed to be on track with the press taking pictures, OB vans present, reporters getting their quotes or sound bytes, when, the crowd suddenly got violent.

The police presence was quickly upped as the city seemed to be on the brink of a communal riot. While one appreciates how difficult and sensitive such situations are, one cannot understand why the police beat this paper’s senior photographer Atul Kamble who was at the site.

Kamble told the police that he was a press photographer and was taking pictures as that was his job. Still he was lathi charged. It is shocking that police personnel hit a journalist who was simply recording the event. What does one do when protectors turn aggressors? Why was Kamble targeted for doing his job? Who is going to provide answers?

Of late, one has seen the media at the receiving end of people’s ire. Often this anger turns violent and the press becomes a victim of violence. Whether it is the price for bold and fair reporting or simply being in the place they have to be at dangerous times, they pay a heavy price.

That the police have unleashed this violence is simply unforgivable and till somebody is held accountable and punished one fears that we will see repeats of such incidents, where for some reason or the other, a media person may have to bear the brunt for doing his job.

As a vibrant democracy, we need a free and fearless press. That the press needs to watch out for the very people who are supposed to be protectors is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs. 

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