Condemning the police attack on journalists covering the protests here, Press Council of India chairperson Justice Markandey Katju on Monday warned the government of serious consequences.
If the government failed to prevent such incidents and did not take any action against the personnel involved, it would be deemed that it was unable to govern in accordance with the Constitution, and the legal consequences of Articles 355 and 356 may follow, he said.
The two Articles are used for imposition of President’s rule in a State whenever there is a total collapse of the law and order machinery.
In a statement issued here, Mr. Justice Katju said the journalists were only covering the events, which was their fundamental right under the Constitution and it was, in fact, their duty to the public.
“Many journalists were targeted by the police, their cameras broken, and many were physically assaulted. This is a flagrant attack on democracy in the country, and it is not an isolated incident. Many such incidents are coming to my knowledge from different parts of the country,” he said.
Describing journalists as people’s agents required to give them correct information about important events so that they can form rational opinions, a sine qua non in a democracy, Mr. Justice Katju said it was reported that some people in the crowds threw stones at the police. This was, of course, objectionable. But surely journalists did not throw stones.
The police should not take the plea that they could not distinguish between journalists and non-journalists because the journalists were carrying cameras and other equipment.
Describing the attack as ‘deplorable,’ Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said any unprovoked action was unacceptable and deserved to be condemned.
Talking to reporters here, Mr. Tewari said the Ministry had issued an advisory on Sunday evening, asking media to report the issue sensitively. “The idea is not to regulate media space but it is a sensitive situation and needs to be handled delicately,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Union of Journalists, the Press Association and the Press Club of India called upon the government to take immediate action against the police personnel who attacked journalists and peaceful demonstrators.