Times Now Navbharat reporter Bhawana Kishore has been released from the Ludhiana central jail a day after the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted interim bail to her.
This comes amid sharp criticism from several journalist associations, who had hit out at the police for booking the reporter under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and for alleged rash driving.
Kishore, video journalist Mrityunjay Kumar and car driver Parminder Singh were arrested on Friday after a woman’s hand was injured when their vehicle allegedly hit her. They were accused of using casteist slurs.
However, Times Now Navbharat has claimed that the arrests came after a series of “orchestrated events”. The media organisation alleged that Kishore was held without the presence of woman police personnel after sunset and denied legal and telephone access. Kishore subsequently moved the high court challenging the FIR.
Kishore was released from prison on Sunday evening, according Ludhiana ACP Rajesh Sharma quoted by PTI.
The channel has said that there was a brawl when the trio was on its way to cover an AAP event hosted by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwat Mann in Ludhiana. It claimed that a group of women in an e-rickshaw hit the vehicle into the journalist’s car, pointing to the possibility of them being “motivated AAP workers”. It also alleged that the police action could be because of the channel’s coverage of Kejriwal’s official residence.
Meanwhile, an Indian Express slammed the AAP government over the incident on Monday. “Not that another reminder was needed. But the arrest of a reporter and her two colleagues from Times Now Navbharat by the Punjab Police for allegedly knocking a woman down with their vehicle and ‘using casteist slurs’ against her – the channel and its staff have denied the allegations – is another reminder of how, increasingly, those in power, whatever their politics, see the press as an adversary that better be reined in and intimidated, rather than given the secure space to address the people’s right to know by either revealing uncomfortable truths or asking uncomfortable questions.”
It noted that the arrest comes after the channel’s coverage on Kejriwal’s house. “The Punjab government’s action comes days after the channel broadcast ‘Operation Sheeshmahal’, alleging that there had been “ultra-lavish and disproportionate expenditure incurred in refurbishing the official residence of Delhi CM”. The Aam Aadmi Party and its government should address the questions raised by the report and, of course, have the right to rebut, even refute the allegations. That, however, doesn’t give it a free pass to target the channel or its employees in a state where it is in power.”