An unidentified man accused the journalists of spreading misinformation about the government and tried to snatch their equipment.
Two reporters associated with the film and media collective ChalChitra Abhiyaan were threatened and prevented from doing their work while they were out reporting on the impact of the recent GST rate hike on food prices at Kishanpur Baral village in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat area on Wednesday afternoon.
Naukul Singh Sawhney, the founder of ChalChitra Abhiyaan, said that the reporters, Shakib Rangrezz and Vishal Stonewall, were confronted by a man who threatened them for speaking to the villagers and even tried to snatch their equipment.
Sawhney said the man was a BJP supporter, but Newslaundry couldn’t independently establish his identity.
Speaking to Newslaundry, Sawhney said this wasn’t the first time that his teammates had been threatened or attacked while doing their job. There have been three-four incidents before but they haven’t always gone public about them. Now that it was becoming a pattern, he said, they had decided to speak out. He noted that many of the collective’s reporters were from minority and vulnerable communities, including victims of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal carnage, which he said made them easier targets.
Rangrezz said he and Stonewall were speaking to Kishanpur Baral’s villagers about the GST rate hike when a man approached them. “He said we could not do this journalism there and that we should go. He tried to snatch our camera and stopped us from speaking to people. He snatched our mic, but I took it back. He threatened us saying that we had better leave or he would call other people. We were stopped from doing journalism.”
Rangrezz said his collective routinely does such work. “We do this kind of journalism which the Delhi media perhaps cannot. Problems of local farmers, women’s issues, problems being faced by the common people,” he explained.
Stonewall said, “The man came on a bike and began asking us who we were and snatched our equipment. We explained our work but he still misbehaved with us. He told us we were telling people the wrong thing, and spreading misinformation about the government. He said that we should not report there."
Responding to Nakul’s tweet about the attack, the Baghpat police told him to provide a written complaint at the Ramala police station.
The incident was condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists. In a statement, the CPJ urged the police to investigate the matter, and take action against the perpetrator. This was echoed by Digipub, which issued a statement saying the "repeated pattern of intimidation and physical assaults on journalists in Uttar Pradesh...must be halted".