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Statement by Network for Women In Media, India (NWMI) on assault on woman journalist in Guwahati, Assam

In a brazen infringement of freedom of the press, a woman reporter of a local TV channel was brutally assaulted by private security guards and police personnels at the leading referral centre of Northeastern India the Gauhati Medical College Hospital in the heart of Guwahati city and that too in broad daylight.

Journalist Afrida Hussain, Staff reporter with (North East Television) NETV alongwith cameraperson Nitul Deka were brutally assaulted by a group of private security guards and police personnel at the hospital premises on March 30, 2007. Here is a vivid detail on what really happened as narrated by Hussain herself.

The incident took place at around 10 am when Hussain and her cameraperson went to the Hospital premises to interview the wives of the ULFA militants who are on a hunger strike. They were prevented to enter the premises at the gate itself but somehow they managed to get in and meet the ladies. The hospital is manned by private security guards but there is an Assam police outpost within the premises itself.

On their way back, as the cameraperson was trying to take a footage of the Hospital signboard, a private security guard started hitting the camera and hurling abuses. Hussain pointed out that there was no notice citing that photography was prohibited. She called up the Principal Dr. M. M. Deka and apprised him of the situation. The principal agreed that there was no rule prohibiting photography.

Inspite of repeatedly stating that they were from the media, the security guard started hitting the camera and then the cameraperson, both Hussain and Gogoi tried to save the camera. Then the agitated guard dragged Hussain by her hand and hurled her and she fell down. She then hit back in self-defence and he started kicking her at her legs. Meanwhile the public gathered at the site and this made the security guard flee from the scene.

She then started taking bytes of the public present. Just then, several policemen and security personnels came and dragged them both to the police outpost and snatched their mobile phones. One of them twisted her arms and dragged her to the outpost and then a female private security guard kicked her in her stomach. They were then dragged to the Principals room and one of them even held her by her hair.

But as they reached the Principals room, Hussain started vomiting profusely and had to be admitted at a private hospital for treatment. It may be noted that Hussain had a miscarriage in January this year. Three years into this profession, she is still in a state of shock and trauma. Her medical bills, of course, have been paid by her media house. She has registered a FIR at Dispur police station.

The Assam Human Rights Commission had taken a suo moto cognizance of this matter and has sought detailed reports from the Superintendent of police, Guwahati and the Principal-cum- Superintendent of the Gauhati Medical College Hospital within four weeks regarding the unwarranted incident.

Hussain had tried to seek help from the Assam State Commission for Women and has urged them to take action. She alleges, the security guards and police personnel were hostile towards our media house because of its consistent anti-government stand. I do not seek any kind of compensation but only appeal that the guilty should be brought to book.

We on behalf of NWMI strongly condemn the incident and demand the following:
1. A judicial enquiry into the matter
2. Punishment of the guilty.
3. A written assurance from the State government so that such fundamental right violation does not happen in the future
4. A public apology from the private security firm. Urge the state government to formulate some policy to make such firms accountable in futures.

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Kathrine JohnsBy:
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