Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Youth and Sports, Anurag Thakur, criticised the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal for the ongoing attacks on journalists in the state during a session in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday (21 December).
Thakur stated, "There are frequent reports of deadly attacks on journalists and violent incidents from West Bengal. The state government should work to provide a safe environment to journalists," as reported by The Indian Express.
He also highlighted the vandalism of IEC vans during the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra across the country, emphasising that West Bengal is the only state where such incidents occurred.
Thakur asserted, "This is a conspiracy to deprive the poor and needy of Bengal from development. When journalists go to show this, they also face danger to their lives and property."
Thakur proceeded to enumerate a series of attacks on journalists in West Bengal, citing instances under Banerjee's watch.
These included incidents during civic elections in October 2015, civic polls in North Dumdum and East Midnapore in February 2022, and the filing of nominations for the 2023 Panchayat elections.
Thakur expressed concern about the safety of journalists covering these events.
Responding to a question by Trinamool MP Dola Sen regarding the "policy framework for the protection of journalists," Thakur mentioned that he possesses a comprehensive list of attacks involving prominent journalists but refrained from presenting it in the House.
He noted, "Jis MP ne question poochha woh to hai nahi" (The MP who asked the question is not present).
Prior to addressing the question on journalists' safety, Thakur emphasised the Centre's commitment to protecting every citizen and clarified that law and order fall under the state government's jurisdiction.
He highlighted a 2017 advisory from the Home Ministry to states for comprehensive arrangements for journalist safety.
He also said that in case of violence against journalists anywhere in the country, the Press Council of India (PCI) has the right to take suo moto case and that PCI is an autonomous institution whose members are elected through a fixed process, but the Central government can take positive action if required.
Thakur also commented on the recent incident of Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee mimicking Vice-President and Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, deeming it shameful for the entire country.
He criticised Rahul Gandhi's video-making and took a dig at press freedom indexes and reports, stating that no organisation or media persons had approached him or his office for input on such reports.
Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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