Stop attacks on journalists doing their job at Sabarimala

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) vehemently denounces the attacks on journalists, including several women journalists, at Nilackal/Sabarimala. Saritha S Balan of The Newsminute, Pooja Prasanna of Republic, Radhika Ramaswamy of CNN-News 18 and Maushumi Singh of India Today were attacked today while attempting to cover the situation at the entry point to the Sabarimala hill temple, scheduled to open for monthly rituals this evening. Yesterday several journalism students were stopped by protesters, mainly female, who were stopping and screening all vehicles bound for Pampa. It is up to the government to see that more names are not added to the list and that mob frenzy is not allowed to interfere with freedom of expression, the public's right to information and the media's responsibility to report on events and issues of public concern.  

The opening of the temple today marks the first time after the Supreme Court handed down its verdict allowing women of all ages to pray at the hill temple.  Until then girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age were not permitted to pray there.  Hundreds of protesters opposing the verdict have been camping at Nilackal over the past few days.  On Tuesday they began stopping and checking vehicles, including state-run buses, and forcibly turning back female passengers in the hitherto forbidden age group. Today they turned violent, attacking journalists, including women, who were there to do their jobs.

We demand that the Chief Minister and government of Kerala take immediate action against the agitators who let violent assailants loose on journalists, obstructing them from doing their duty. It is incumbent on the government to create a secure environment for journalists to report from Pamba and nearby areas on an issue that is of interest and concern to the public. The government must immediately ensure the safety of journalists and assure the media that the lives of reporters are not in danger.

NWMI  condemns the attacks and urges support from civil society in Kerala to make sure that the media is able to cover this controversial issue without fear and that journalists are not harmed in the process of doing their jobs.

October 17, 2018