Guwahati: The journalist fraternity of northeast India took to the streets demonstrating their anger against the Assam government for arresting a private television journalist suspect of ‘maintaining unlawful relationship’ with banned armed outfits. The media personnel under various forums urged the authority to release Jaikhlong Brahma, a Kokrajhar based journalist of News Live satellite channel unconditionally.

By Nava J.Thakuria

The police claimed that Brahma, 44, who was arrested on September 2 evening, was silently providing information about the movement of security personnel engaged in counter-insurgency operations to the militants belonging to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (IK Songbijit faction), which remains active in western Assam.

After seizing Brahma’s laptop and two cell phones from his Kokrajhar residence, the police disclosed that he ‘instigated the militants for violent activities’. Meanwhile, Brahma was produced in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kokrajhar and he was remanded in a five-day
police custody imposition.

Various organizations including Kokrajhar Press Club, Gosaigaon Press Club, Assam Press Correspondents’ Union, Arunachal Press Club, Bodo Sahitya Sabha, Bodo Women’s Welfare Federation, All Bodo Students Union, All Assam Students Union, Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad etc. lodged strong protests against the police actions.

A protest meeting organized by Journalists’ Action Committee Assam at Guwahati Press Club on September 4 also urged the Tarun Gogoi led Assam government to release Brahma without delay.

The participants demonstrated in front of the press club and they unanimously decided to send a factual report about Brahma’s arrest to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) etc.

Meanwhile, the IFJ condemned the arrest of Brahma and demanded a fair investigation into the matter with his immediate release. In a statement issued from Brussels, the IFJ also urged the government to ensure freedom of the media.

“We demand an immediate and fair investigation into the matter. The rights of the media to report are clear in India’s constitution and a journalist should not be arrested for simply reporting the information they disseminate,” quoting Jane Worthington, deputy director of IFJ Asia Pacific, the statement added.

Earlier the Electronic Media Forum Assam (EMFA) disclosed that the police were also looking for another Kokrajhar based television journalist (Rinoy Basumatary of News Time Assam) with the same allegation. Rinoy’s house was raided by the police and an arrest warrant was issued against the scribe.

The forum maintained its view that ‘a working journalist has the right to communicate and report about insurgency related issues and for that reason(s) must not be punished’. Reporting insurgency, on the other hand, helps prevent rumours that are spread by the militants from time to time, the forum claimed.

Lately, under tremendous pressure and the heat of protests, the Assam police have changed their version regarding the arrest of Brahma. Assam police director general Khagen Sarma claimed that Brahma was arrested not as a journalist, but as an individual who has maintained objectionable links with the militants for the last ten years. He reiterated that the authority has always maintained due respect and recognition to media personnel.