Two Republic TV journalists and their driver were arrested Tuesday night for allegedly abusing a security guard at Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackrey's farmhouse at Mojhe Bhilwale village, Khalapur, Raigar. They were booked for trespassing as well.
Reporter Anuj Sharma, cameraperson Yashpaljit Singh, and their Ola cab driver Pradeep Dhanavade were arrested from a highway in Navi Mumbai and handed over to the Raigad police. They were produced in a Khalapur court on Wednesday afternoon which remanded them in police custody for five days.
Asked why they had arrested the journalists, Suresh Yamgar, the spokesman for the Raigad police, said, “We don't know whether they are journalists or not. Although we found identity cards on them, we have still to confirm whether they are really reporters.”
He added, “We arrested them on the basis of a complaint filed by the watchman of the farmhouse owned by the chief minister. On Tuesday, at around 7.30 pm, the complainant met them while he was taking a stroll along the road of the farmhouse. They were sitting there in a Wagon R car. They questioned the complainant about the location of the chief minister's farmhouse. He found them suspicious and said he was not aware of the location and went back to the guard room inside the farmhouse."
Ten minutes later, Yamgar claimed, the journalists and the driver barged into the guard room. “They got into an argument with the guard and asked why he had told them he didn’t know where the farmhouse was. Before leaving, they hurled abuses at him and manhandled him."
The guard approached the Khalapur police station and registered a complaint against the three men. "The complainant had taken down the number of their car on the basis of which we alerted the Navi Mumbai police. They detained them at a highway checkpost, and then handed them over to us.”
A journalist at Republic TV told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity that the crew had been sent to the farmhouse by the editors but doesn't know what their assignment was.
Responding to the arrest of its employees, Republic TV said in a that they had been “taken into illegal police custody”.
“The reporting team was following a journalistic lead in an investigative assignment in Karjat in Raigad,” it added. “This incident seems part of a larger pattern by the Maharashtra government to try and block the Republic Media Network. We believe that this is undoubtedly malicious action against our team which has been proven by the concerted nature of the action.”