Gauhati Press Club

Expressing concern on curb to freedom of expression, Guwahati Press Club (GPC) has written a letter to NIA, CBI and Assam Police after a Guwahati-based journalist was summoned by the NIA to question him on the anti-CAA movement and also his relationship with peasant leader Akhil Gogoi who was also arrested by the NIA a few months back.

“We are deeply concerned about the recent developments. We would also like to reassert the significance of freedom of speech and journalists’ right to do their duties without fear or favour,” said Guwahati Press Club General Secretary Sanjoy Ray in the letter.

The letter was also sent to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

“What has struck us in the entire episode is the manner in which some of these journalists were asked to appear before the investigation agency. In some of the recent cases, investigators had summoned journalists without even serving them formal notices. While some were asked to appear over a phone call, others were merely sent a text message,” added Ray.

Manash Jyoti Baruah, who now works with Mirror of Assam, a digital media organisation in Guwahati, was quizzed by NIA for about five hours allegedly without issuing a summon letter on May 15 in connection with a case probing anti-CAA activist, Akhil Gogoi’s alleged links with the Maoists.

The letter by the Guwahati Press Club further added, “In such cases, it is difficult to ascertain for us and the journalist concerned whether he or she has been asked to appear as an accused, witness or anything else. Experts, with whom we got in touch to get the legal perspective on the matter, suggested that it is the right of the person summoned to be served a formal notice. Under such circumstances, we urge you to look into the matter and pass necessary instructions so that the laid down norms are adhere to, and there remains no scope for ambiguity”.

However, Ray said that the GPC well understands the responsibility of the journalists as law abiding citizens to cooperate with the investigation agencies in whatever way they can.

“In this regard, let me also place on record the fact that there had been quite a few instances where journalists had assisted the law enforcers in bringing some of the cases of serious nature to their logical conclusion. We are also aware of the fact that to make the country free from criminal and anti-social elements, we need to work in tandem with the law enforcers to the extent possible,” the letter noted.

Baruah, who was with News18 Assam/Northeast network when the anti-CAA took place in Assam, said he was shocked at the development.

“A team of five investigators asked me several questions such as why Akhil Gogoi called me several times during the anti-CAA agitation in December. They also asked me why I was against the CAA. I told them that people of Assam are against CAA and my contact with Gogoi was only related to news during the anti-CAA protests,” Baruah had said.

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