Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha, two journalists covering the ongoing Tripura violence were detained earlier on Sunday by the Assam police on charges of “spreading communal disharmony”. The two journalists work for an independent news media organization called HW News Network. The journalists were earlier booked under criminal conspiracy, spreading communal disharmony, and committing insult with an intent to break peace.

The two reporters had earlier reported that a mosque was torched in Gomati, Tripura and had further reported that the Holy Quran was also torched. However, a senior police officer was cited in an Indian Express report dismissing the reports. He further claimed that the videos were suspected to have been “doctored”.

Meanwhile, the Editor’s Guild of India and other forums for journalists’ welfare have condemned the arrest.

The Facts of the Matter

21-year-old Samriddhi Sakunia and 25-year-old Swarna Jha, two journalists that work for a Delhi-based news platform HW News Network were recently detained by the Assam police. Reportedly, the two reporters were broadcasting the happenings of the recent Tripura violence that has engulfed the state. The two journalists claimed that a mosque was torched by anti-Muslim faction and other properties owned by Muslims were hit by violence.


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The Tweets Shared By Detained Journalist

In a tweet shared by Samriddhi, it was mentioned that, “#Tripuraviolence Darga Bazaar: On 19th October at around 2:30 am, some unidentified people burnt down the mosque in Darga Bazaar area. People in the neighborhood are very upset with the fact that now they don’t have any place nearby to go and pray There’s no other masjid nearby.”

Police Suspects Videos to be “Doctored”

However, the Tripura police issued a press release on November 15 dismissing the reports the two journalists were broadcasting. “This is contrary to the findings so far revealed in course of investigation as presence of no such damage (of) books/documents was brought to the notice of investigating officer and fire service staff who extinguished the fire,” the issue stated, as per a report of News Laundry.

“Many people claimed the Quran was burnt during the acts of vandalism. We didn’t find any such evidence in the last 20 days. Investigation suggests that the video may have been doctored. We want to be sure if this was done in connivance with anyone or not. Therefore, the journalists have been detained,” another officer said, as per an Indian Express report.


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Journalist Was Asked to Not Share “Misleading Info” Without Verifying

Further, Samriddhi used to share updates on Tripura violence on Twitter. However, the official handle of the Tripura police had asked her to not post “misleading information” without verifying.

Police Had Asked Journalist to Inform When They May Leave

The police also claimed that the two journalists were asked to keep the police in the loop before leaving the state. However, the journalists chose to bail on the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport plan they had shared with the police and tried to travel through Assam.

Both the journalists are currently detained after 2 FIRs were lodged against them under multiple provisions of the Indian Penal Code.


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FIR Filed Under Criminal Conspiracy, Promoting Enmity Between Groups & More

The first FIR against the two reporters was lodged from the Fatikroy police station under Section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy), Section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).

The second FIR was filed under Section 153A, Section 153B (assertions prejudicial to national integration), Section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy), Section 193 (Punishment for false evidence), Section 204 (Destruction of document or electronic record to prevent its production as evidence) and Section 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace).