Tribal woman journalist denied entry to Manipur Assembly to cover session despite having pass

By FrontierManipur | Published On 24th Feb, 2021, 01:24 GMT+0530

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Recent photo of Paojel Chaoba, Grace Jajo and Babloo Loitongbam (L-R) during a press meet

On the last day (Monday) of the 12th session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly, journalist Grace Jajo was not only denied entry, but her entry pass was allegedly taken away forcibly by security personnel.

TFM Report

Independent journalist Grace Jajo has been covering the 12th session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly since the beginning. She has all necessary documents for access to the media gallery of the Assembly, including the entry pass and the press identity card (i-card). Everything went off smoothly without a hitch.

However, her experience on the last day of the session was altogether different. She went through a terrifying ordeal. Her entry pass was snatched and she was asked to leave the assembly complex by the security guard stationed there.

Human Rights Alert (HRA) has condemned the incident, which has been meted out to a tribal woman journalist inside the complex of “Temple of Democracy”, in the “strongest term” and added that relevant authorities will be approached in this regard.

Grace Jajo on Tuesday narrated her ordeal to media persons at the HRA office in Kwakeithel Thiyam Leikai, Imphal. Jajo said that she has been covering the 12th session from the beginning, by going to the Assembly with the entry pass and press identification card (i-card).

She went to the Assembly around 11:35 am on Monday as usual, to cover the session. When she entered the female entry room, security personnel asked her to show her i-card. Accordingly, she produced her entry pass to cover the session and her press card (of the Aja Daily), said Grace.

At that point of time, one E Tomba (head security) allegedly took away her Entry pass forcibly and informed Grace that an order had been issued to not let her enter, and asked her to leave. A scuffle broke out, and when Grace demanded Tomba to produce the order, he called the chief security officer over the phone. When the chief security officer informed her to take the order from one Raju (joint secretary), Raju was called up but didn’t pick up as he was inside the Assembly. Then she was asked to leave, Grace added.

“Initially I was offered a chair and I sat down and I called MHJU president and other senior journalists. Then I was asked to sit next to the two heavily armed security guards near the gate. I cooperated”, she said.

Grace said that she left the frisking entry room at around 12:20 pm, and waited outside the room for the order.

She informed the president of Manipur Hills Journalists’ Union about the ordeal. A well-known chief editor of a leading cable TV News channel was also called up, but did not pick up, she added.

“Two minutes after I sat down  two lady security personnel came and told me that the senior officer wants me to wait outside the gate”, she informed. 

“While the security personnel posted there told me to leave stating that I can’t stay there, more assembly security people came towards me. Simultaneously a police team led by a female Sub-inspector (SI) drove up to the gate from the outside and shouted at me, from outside the gate, to come out of the complex. Even though she identified herself as a journalist, the security personnel allegedly tried to shove her physically. “I was surrounded inside and outside the gate”, she said.

Grace further added, “Outside, I was still treated like a thief by the police woman, screaming at me and touching me. I requested her not to touch me but to no avail”, said Grace.

Getting anxious, Grace said that she called up a top police officer and he rushed to the scene. Only then the security personnel moved out, she said and added that the police officer contacted the concerned to obtain the order prohibiting her entry, but to no avail. Eventually, she had to return home, Grace narrated the ordeal with tears in her eyes.

Stating that she had not received the order till the press conference was being held, Grace said that she could not ascertain why she was prohibited from covering the Assembly session. Despite having the entry pass signed by the Assembly PRO, it was really ‘surprising’ that she had been prohibited from covering the session and the security personnel snatching the entry pass forcibly, she lamented.

She said the baring of entry was done without any prior information as if they were intending to humiliate her in person. 

“It is disheartening to note why the state authority is doing this. Such inhumane acts have been meted out to me because I am a tribal female journalist,” Grace contended. She also added that anyone can witness the incident in the CCTV cameras.

Grace informed that the Manipur Hills Journalists’ Union has not expressed anything in this regard. She appealed the authority to not let such incidents occur in the future, and drew the attention of the concerned to the ordeal.

Senior journalist and The Frontier Manipur executive editor Paojel Chaoba said that it is unfortunate that a woman journalist who went to cover the session had been treated like a “criminal” inside the Assembly complex, despite having the entry pass. It has raised a big question on the condition of journalists in the state, he added.

Paojel Chaoba also called upon the media fraternity and unions to stand unitedly so that such incidents do not occur in the future.

Human Rights Alert director Babloo Loitongbam said that it is clear that an inhumane and degrading treatment has been meted out to the female journalist. So, in order to restore the dignity of the female journalist, the National Human Rights Commission, Manipur Human Rights Commission and the Scheduled Tribe & Scheduled Caste Commission will be approached, he informed.

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