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Two journalists ordered out of their car at gunpoint, subjected to full-body searches

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Worried Over the Harassment of Journalists In India's North-East

The International Federation of Journalists has learnt from affiliate organisations in the north-eastern Indian state of Tripura of the harassment of two senior journalists by elements of the armed police force assigned to special security duties and anti-insurgency operations.

According to reports received by the IFJ, Pradip Datta Bhaumik and Pranmoy Saha, from the mass-circulation Bengali daily Dainik Sambad, were stopped as they were proceeding by car on a public thoroughfare near the Hawaibari camp of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on January 18. They were ordered out of their car at gunpoint by personnel of the CRPF and despite presenting their press credentials, were subjected to full-body searches in a most rough and humiliating manner.

This was followed by a thorough search of the bags of the two journalists, and also of the vehicle they were travelling in. Though nothing of a suspicious nature was found, the CRPF personnel insisted on the journalists and their driver being presented before their camp commandant.

The commandant reportedly offered no explanation, other than a supposed intelligence input his unit had received about an insurgent group using a car bearing the same licence number. He then ordered another search of the two journalists, their driver, as well as the vehicle.

The IFJ has learnt that the journalists were detained for over an hour, during which the CRPF personnel conducted themselves in a rough and aggressive fashion. The IFJ fully endorses the formal protests that have been lodged with the local authorities and security agencies by the Tripura Journalists' Union, the Tripura Working Journalists' Association, the Editors' Forum and the Press Club in the state capital of Agartala.

"Journalists in Tripura, as also the entire north-eastern region of India, work in very challenging circumstances", said Jacqueline Park, IFJ Asia Pacific Director.

"It is crucial that state authorities and the security agencies should respect their officially granted credentials and not impede their freedom of movement or seek to cause injury to their professional dignity."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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