The two women journalists arrested over their posts on communal incidents in Tripura were “instigating the people against the government”, alleged Tripura’s Information Minister Susanta Chowdhury.
The women – Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha – who got bail yesterday were detained in Assam on Sunday after a case was filed against them by the Tripura police for “spreading communal disharmony” following their reportage on the vandalism at a mosque in the state.
“The two women journalists were provoking the people, instigating the people against the government, trying to unite the Muslim community on behalf of another political party,” said Mr Chowdhury, who is also the government spokesman.
“If they simply wanted to report from ground, present news we don’t have a problem, but why were they putting up provocative post?…We all saw what happened in Amravati, the minority community was provoked to come out on the street, who did it? These type of journalists did it,” the Minister added.
The Editors Guild of India, denouncing the police action against the journalists, demanded their immediate release and “restoration of their freedom to travel”.
In a statement, the Tripura police said that the case involved a tweet by Samriddhi Sakunia, who visited a half-burnt prayer hall at a private house where claims were made of a Quran being burnt. It said the posts by Ms Sakunia were not true and promoted a sense of hatred between communities.
The police said they found no religious document was burnt and the journalists were asked to come to Agartala for questioning. They were detained after they were found to have left the state.
Tripura police suspect that the videos uploaded by them are doctored.
The women at the centre of the controversy told media that they were detained by the police while on their way to the airport. After three-and-half hours at the police station, the escort team from Tripura came. “We asked them to wait, saying our lawyer is on way. But they loudly said, ‘no one is coming’. They also did not show us a copy of the order,” they said.
The journalists accused the police of “intimidating” them on Sunday morning. They said they were not allowed to leave the hotel and move to Agartala.
In an official statement, the HW News Network – where the women work – said the detention took place “despite the police allowing them to leave the hotel and giving them a week’s time to record a statement… This is sheer harassment and targeting of the press on part of Tripura police”.
Last week, tweets were circulated on social media alleging that a mosque in Tripura has been vandalised during a rally by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Union home ministry issued a strong denial, saying the reports were fake and “complete misrepresentation of facts”.