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Civil society groups, prominent citizens denounce arrest of journalists in Bengal

A number of civil society organisations and prominent citizens of the State have protested against the arrest of journalists running a YouTube channel “Arambag TV”. A statement signed by retired Supreme Court Justice Asok K Ganguly, former State Chief Secretary Ardhendu Sen and Prasad Ranjan Ray filmmakers Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen and Tarun Majumdar and others have demanded their release.

Sheikh Shafikul Islam, Chief Executive of the channel, his wife Alima Khatun and another journalist Suraj Ali Khan working on the web channel were arrested on June 29. They have been sent to police custody by a district court.

Bodes ill for our democracy

“These persons were treated in this way not for any heinous crime like murder, rape or dacoity, but only for broadcasting news critical of the State. The way the police surrounded their houses, broke down the doors and carried them off to the police station along with their minor children, bodes ill for our democracy and the Constitution,” a statement signed by the civil society members said.

They said Mr. Islam had reported on the distribution of ₹1 lakh each to 57 local clubs in the Arambagh police station in April and since then they had been booked under several “cases under various charges, but their operations could not be halted”.

Local clubs are registered associations that organise social, cultural and sports activities. There are such clubs in almost every neighbourhood and they organise community Durga Puja. The Trinamool Congress government started a scheme of giving money to a fixed number of clubs every year for organising sports and cultural activities.

Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, a prominent member of a group called Aakranta Aamra (We the victims), said the group has approached the National Human Rights Commission ( NHRC) against the arrest. Prof. Mahapatra was arrested in 2012 for forwarding a cartoon relating to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“We have approached the NHRC. What these incidents tell is that West Bengal has turned into a police state,” Prof. Mahapatra said.

Journalist involved in extortion, say police

The police said the journalist was involved in extortion and a number of other illegal activities. “It is being portrayed as if Arambagh TV is a news channel, but it is only a YouTube channel. In the past we came across instances where communal tensions have been spread using the channel,” Tathagata Basu, Hooghly SP, said.

Mr. Basu said Mr. Islam has been arrested on specific allegations of extorting ₹30,000. The police refuted the allegations of using force during the arrest saying the entire procedure was videographed.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 8:16:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/civil-society-groups-prominent-citizens-denounce-arrest-of-journalists-in-bengal/article31995849.ece

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