An umbrella body of journalists in Tripura has written to the Governor complaining against Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, seeking Ramesh Bais' intervention in "transparent running of the government" so the state media can function "freely and fearlessly" within its constitutional rights.
The voice of the media has been stifled since the BJP-IPFT coalition government came to power in 2018, states a letter by the Tripura Assembly of Journalists (TAJ) - formed after Mr Deb's recent comment accusing media houses of trying to confuse people with "propaganda and conspiracies".
The body has pointed out that at least 17 journalists have been physically assaulted since March 2018, when the Biplab Deb-led government came to power. Of these 17, two - Ashok Dasgupta of Belonia in South Tripura and Parashar Biswas of Ambassa in Dhalai district - were assaulted again after the Chief Minister's comment last week, the letter states.
"No remedial action has been taken by the state government so far. Neither Chief Minister, nor the government condemns attacks on journalists. This has certainly encouraged criminals to continue such attacks," said the letter, undersigned by TAJ Chairman Subal Kumar Dey and Convenor Shekhar Dutta.
The body had earlier alleged that the state government, through "various circulars" and "unofficial means", has restricted government officials from speaking with mediapersons, hindering proper and prompt reporting of events.
"Government officials are even quiet on the COVID-19 situation, and the crisis management steps taken by the government. Due to this, it has become very difficult to disseminate information properly. We hope that the Governor will intervene and allow a more transparent running of the government," Mr Dey said.
Media houses in Tripura have been enraged with the Biplab Deb-led state government for the last few years, and decided to escalate the matter after he defended the allegedly accusatory comment he made during the foundation laying ceremony of a Special Economic Zone in South Tripura district's Sabroom area.
"Some overexcited media houses are creating confusion among the people of Tripura regarding Covid threat in the state. Neither history nor I will ever forgive them. I am Biplab Deb and history stands witness that I am a man of my word," Chief Minister Deb had said on September 11.
Three days after this comment, during a press meeting at the CM's office, Mr Deb had said the media should "introspect" on how sincerely it is doing its duty, and that his comment was blown out of proportion.
"Often, monkeys are turned into tigers and tigers are turned into monkeys in propaganda," Mr Deb had said explaining his comment.