Journalist Mandeep Punia sent to jail for 14 days 

Crackdown on journalists covering the massive farmers protest continues, especially vulnerable are freelance reporters, and independent media groups

Journalist Mandeep Punia

In a crackdown on journalists covering the massive farmers protest, independent reporter Mandeep Punia (25), who hails from Jhajjar, Haryana has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days. He is now lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. As the media fraternity gathered in support of Punia and demanded his release, many shared videos of Mandeep being beaten up allegedly by police at Singhu border from where he was reporting, when he was detained.



Mandeep Punia has been charged under Sections 186 (voluntarily obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. He was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a Delhi court on Sunday. According to Indian Express, Punia’s lawyer, Akram Khan has said the bail application will be heard on Monday, February 1.

According to the FIR, that was also shared on social media, protesters “clung to the policemen”, and “one of them dragged Constable Rajkumar towards the protest site”, adding that police used “minimal force to control the situation…the man who was dragging our constable fell in the canal… He was identified as Mandeep Punia… Punia and the protesters who came along with him obstructed police personnel in their duty and also thrashed them.”

The IE quoted lawyer Khan stating that Punia was produced before a magistrate inside Tihar jail and that his bail hearing is listed at Rohini court on Monday February 1. According to the IE, the bail application states that “no information was given to his family members until late last night regarding his detention or possible arrest”. The news came to light after other journalists and those at the protest site shared the video of Puniya being held by policemen, and a journalist then reached the police station to file a missing person’s complaint.

The application adds that Puniya was “merely carrying out his journalistic duties and another journalist was detained along with him but was released around midnight”. The second journalist, Dharmendra Singh, was allowed to go, reported the IE, after he showed the police his press card. Punia is a freelance journalist, and does not carry a “press card”, his lawyers state that this is “no grounds for a case or arrest”. Puniya graduated from Panjab University, Chandigarh and studied journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). He has been published by The Caravan magazine, and also reports on his own online handles.

According to the IE report, Puniya’s lawyers stated that: “The offences as alleged in the FIR are not made out against him. The FIR was registered at around 1.21 am (on Sunday) despite him being allegedly part of a scuffle at around 6.40 pm the previous evening. In such a simple case where the accused is allegedly apprehended on the spot and where the complainant and alleged victim are police officers, this approximate seven-hour delay has to be considered significant.


Media Stands Together In Solidarity

In the presence of Puniya’s wife Leelashree (29), journalists held a peaceful protest at the Delhi Police headquarters on Jai Singh Road on Sunday. Leelashree, a research scholar said, “If they start suppressing their (journalists’) voices, society will be silenced. This is very unfortunate. I got a call from the police today at 10 AM that an FIR has been lodged at Alipur thana. They told me to get some clothes for him. But why this happened at 10 am is something I do not understand…this incident happened around 6 PM the previous day. I didn’t even know where he was.”  According to news reports journalists also held protests in Panchkula, and more protests are likely in Chandigarh and Fatehabad,  Haryana.

The Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India and the Press Association condemned the brutal police action against freelance journalist Mandeep Punia, and Dharmender Singh, and demanded that Punia be freed immediately adding “no journalist should 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.” The Editors Guild of India condemned the intimidation of journalists  who have been slapped with FIRs for their reportage, and social media updates from the events of January 26. 



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