Freelance journalist Mandeep Punia, picked up from Singhu border, sent to Tihar Jail for 14 days
Ignoring protests by media bodies and journalists demanding his immediate release, Mandeep Punia was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a magistrate in the absence of any defence counsel
The Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India and the Press Association on Sunday condemned police action against freelance journalist Mandeep Punia and Dharmender Singh (with Online News India), who were picked up by Delhi Police on January 30 evening from the farmers’ protest site at Singhu border.
While Dharmender Singh was released early Sunday morning, Mandeep Punia was produced before a magistrate, who remanded him to judicial custody for 14 days.
Punia’s wife told the media at the Press Club of India that police did not part with information and effectively prevented any legal representation before the magistrate. The proceedings, she alleged, lasted barely two minutes and the reporter was sent to Tihar Jail.
Mandeep Punia is a young freelance journalist who contributes to The Caravan and Junputh. The Delhi Police used brutal force while picking up Mandeep and did not share his whereabouts to other media colleague through the night.
The copy of the FIR against Mandeep was issued only this morning. Four IPC sections -- 186, 353, 332, 34 -- have been pressed against him. It was initially reported that he was detained for obstructing policemen from discharging their duty. Thereafter it was claimed that he had misbehaved with the SHO. But the FIR alleges that he was part of a mob which attacked policemen on Saturday evening.
His colleagues pointed out that Mandeep was reporting on the present farmers’ agitation right from the beginning and his arrest was part of the government crackdown on journalists to prevent them from doing their job independently and freely. They further alleged that he was being punished because he had exposed the collusion between Delhi Police and the allegedly ‘local mob’ which had attacked farmers.
The Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India and the Press Association on Sunday demanded that Mandeep be freed and no journalist be disturbed while carrying out their duties at any place. “Such crackdowns impinge on the media’s right to report freely and interferes with our right to freedom of expression, and freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution of India,” they said in a statement.
A group of journalists and others also rallied outside the Delhi Police Headquarters on the Jai Singh Road on Sunday to protest against Punia’s arrest. Calling it an 'attack on journalism', the protesters working for different media organizations carried posters and placards to show support to the journalist.
Meanwhile, several journalists took to Twitter to question and condemn Punia’s arrest: