WRITERS' STAFF ROUGH UP SCRIBES 

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By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 10.08.00
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Calcutta, Aug. 10 :     A group of employees of the information and cultural affairs department on Thursday assaulted 11 journalists, including a woman, who were on duty at Writers' Buildings. Six newsmen were injured and they were treated by the medical officer at the state secretariat. A formal complaint has been lodged with minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who apologised for the assault. The incident occurred at about 2 pm, when a group of members of the Information Service Officer's Association was submitting a memorandum to information director Tarapada Ghosh. One of the officers rang up the press corner and requested reporters to cover the event. Soon afterwards, about 20 reporters, photographers and television crew from different channels went to the information director's office on the third floor. Noticing the sunlamps and the flood of light, about 10 employees, sitting at the rear of the department, rushed towards the newspersons and demanded to know what they were doing there. They then attacked the mediapersons. All the journalists were surprised by the sudden and unprovoked attack. The employees snatched the TV cameras and flung them on the floor. While the mediapersons tried to save the cameras, the employees gave them a drubbing. One employee slapped and dragged a woman reporter from E-TV, Gargi Guha Thakurta, out of the department. The government employees blocked the office entrance and continued to flog the journalists for over 15 minutes. What was even more surprising is that the officers, who were inside the director's room to submit the deputation and who had asked the mediapersons to cover the event, did not come to their rescue. The journalists, however, managed to escape. As the minister of the department was not present at that time, the reporters lodged a complaint with finance minister Asim Dasgupta and chief secretary Manish Gupta. Asim Dasgupta apologised on behalf of the government. Later in the evening, the journalists related the incident to Bhattacharya. He assured them that action would be taken against the employees. "It is a shame that employees of my department have beaten you up. I apologise. Believe me, I will do the needful,'' Bhattacharya told the mediapersons. Bhattacharya later held a meeting with departmental secretary Arun Bhattacharya and home secretary S.N. Roy to discuss the matter. Of the errant employees, four have been identified. They are Sukumar Dey, Alok Roy, Satya Paul and Rajat Das. They belong to the CPM-controlled state coordination committee. Even the ones yet unidentified were caught in action by the television cameras. Calcutta Press Club and different journalists' organisations have condemned the assault and demanded that the employees be punished. Attacks on journalists are nothing new under Left Front rule. But this is the first time they have been assaulted within the state secretariat itself and that too, by employees of the information and cultural affairs department, which is meant to liaise with the media.