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Press freedom at risk: Editors Guild of India denounces arrest of journalist during live broadcast in Sandeshkhali

The arrest of Santu Pan while reporting on alleged sexual assaults in Sandeshkhali raises serious questions about press freedom in West Bengal, says Editors Guild

Subharup Das Sharma Calcutta Published 20.02.24, 02:08 PM
Journalist Santu Pan being arrested by the police, in Sandeshkhali, February 19, 2024.

Journalist Santu Pan being arrested by the police, in Sandeshkhali, February 19, 2024. X/@NMukherjee6


The Editors Guild of India has voiced serious concern over Monday's arrest of a television journalist in Bengal while he was reporting on allegations of sexual assault in Sandeshkhali.

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The Guild termed Monday's arrest of Santu Pan, a journalist with Republic Bangla, a worrisome sign for press freedom in Bengal. This incident, it said, has renewed a nationwide debate about the state of journalistic freedom.

Pan was in the midst of reporting on alleged sexual assaults in Sandeshkhali when he was abruptly taken into custody by the police. The live footage, widely shared across social media platforms, captured the moment when the journalist was forcibly taken away by heavily armed officers at the Sandeshkhali ferry terminal.'

"The arrest of Mr. Santu Pan, while he was reporting live on television, is worrisome and represents a disturbing trend of impeding the media's work," stated the Guild. Emphasising the importance of a balanced approach to law enforcement, Editor's Guild points out in their statement, "While the police should investigate any allegations, taking a journalist away while reporting disrupts not only his work but also the public's right to information." The body also urged the West Bengal administration to conduct a swift inquiry into the matter to protect press freedom.

The arrest has also seen sharp reactions from political figures. Dr. Sukanta Majumdar, the Bengal BJP state president, took to Twitter to express his strong condemnation of the arrest of journalist Santu Pan, describing it as an egregious attack on the democratic fabric of society. "Today, the WB Police arrested @BanglaRepublic Reporter Santu Pan from Sandeshkhali for reporting on the atrocities being faced by the locals. This is a massive, inhuman, and direct attack on the fourth pillar of Democracy," Majumdar tweeted, highlighting the severity of the incident and its implications for press freedom in West Bengal.

Suvendu Adhikary, the Leader of Opposition and a prominent figure within the BJP, took a stand of solidarity with Santu Pan, employing a symbolic gesture by blacking out his profile pictures on social media platforms. Adhikary's public denouncement of the arrest, coupled with his call to observe a "black day" for democracy, reflects a deep-seated concern for the state of journalistic freedom in West Bengal.

"I have blacked out my profile picture on my social media handles for 24 hours, in solidarity with Republic Bangla journalist Santu Pan, who has been arrested by the Mamata Police for extensively and relentlessly reporting the horrific atrocities on the women of Sandeshkhali," Adhikary stated, marking a public stance against what he views as governmental overreach and suppression.

Pan, who was released today morning, has reported being coerced into signing three documents without being given the opportunity to read them. Pan highlighted the lack of due process following his arrest, noting that he was not subjected to a medical examination, a standard procedure meant to ensure the well-being of detainees.

Republic TV, standing firmly behind its reporter, has criticised the unlawful detention, painting a harrowing picture of the treatment meted out to Pan. Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, detailed the harsh conditions faced by Pan prior to his arrest, emphasizing the disregard for basic rights and procedures. The channel's statement, advocating for the uncovering of truth, resonates as a call to action for those who value journalistic integrity and the democratic principle of freedom of speech.

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