The Editors Guild of India issued a statement today condemning "high-handed and arbitrary" police action that obstructs journalists from reporting on the coronavirus outbreak.
"The job of the police is not to impede journalists' work, especially under current circumstances, but to facilitate their functioning," the statement said.
The statement comes two days after reports of the police assaulting journalists for alleged non-compliance of lockdown instructions in their respective states. In Hyderabad, the bureau chief of The Hindu said he was abused and "held by his neck" while returning home from work in his car. In Noida, an Aaj Tak journalist said the police took away his carkeys, wallet and phone, bundled him into a van, and beat him.
The guild said such action is "self-defeating when media freedoms are critically important for covering the outbreak and the state response".
While urging law enforcement agencies to let the media "play its role as smoothly as possible", the statement said the government should implement a "suitable mechanism to facilitate minister-level regular briefings during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, so that communication does not suffer as it doesn't give the media adequate opportunity to ask questions."
India is currently on Day 2 of a 21-day lockdown to battle the spread of coronavirus. Essential services will continue to function, however, which also includes "print and electronic media".
Page one of the Ministry of Home Affairs' guidelines for the lockdown.