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Armed vigilantes attack newspaper van, destroy entire cargo of the day's edition, set van ablaze

Armed vigilantes attack newspaper van, destroy entire
(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Ban On Newspaper, Attack On Delivery Van

The International Federation of Journalists condemns the "ban" imposed on a daily newspaper, Asamiya Pratidin, by a political party in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam. According to information received from an IFJ affiliate, the Indian Journalists' Union (IJU), armed vigilantes belonging to the Bodo People's Front (BPF), intercepted a delivery van belonging to the newspaper on February 25 in Kokrajhar district of Assam, and destroyed its entire cargo of the day's edition, before setting the van ablaze.

The BPF, the IFJ learns, is a former insurgent group that now is the principal constituent of the Bodoland Territorial Council, a body created under the Indian constitution to safeguard the distinct cultural identity of the Bodo people of Kokrajhar and nearby districts. The IJU has urged the BPF, as a body enjoying the guarantees of the Indian constitution, to be more respectful of the laws of the land regarding the right to free speech. The IFJ fully endorses this call.

The BPF was allegedly reacting to a report that appeared in the February 24 edition of Asamiya Pratidin, on an extravagant wedding ceremony held the previous day for its leader, Mr Hagrama Mohilary. As a public figure holding a constitutional office, the IFJ would like to remind Mr Mohilary that he should be prepared to subject himself to media scrutiny in matters otherwise deemed personal.

The IFJ calls upon the Bodoland Territorial Council and the Assam state government, in which the BPF is a partner, to promptly condemn this attack on media freedom and bring those responsible to book.

As elected bodies functioning under a constitutional dispensation, the IFJ urges the Bodoland Territorial Council and the Assam state government to disassociate themselves from any "ban" on the circulation of the Asamiya Pratidin newspaper.

"India has established grievance settlement processes in matters involving the press", said Jacqueline Park, Director, IFJ Asia-Pacific. "Aggrieved individuals are at liberty to approach the Press Council of India or if warranted, the courts of law for redress, and not resort to armed vigilantism".

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

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