Media Office Attacked in Visakhapatnam Amid Political Condemnations and Calls for Press Freedom Protection

Visakhapatnam, India – A violent incident targeting the Deccan Chronicle’s office in Visakhapatnam has ignited widespread condemnation across political and journalistic circles after Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supporters allegedly torched the publication’s display board. The attack followed a report by the newspaper on the controversial issue of the privatization of Visakha Steel Plant, a move that has seen significant public resistance.

Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, president of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRC) and former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, voiced his dissent on social media, decrying the aggression as an attempt to intimidate a media organization that maintains independence in its reporting. He implicated the current administration under Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s leadership for the erosion of democratic values in the state.

“This cowardly act against @DeccanChronicle by individuals linked to @JaiTDP represents another attempt to suppress a free press that refuses to blindly follow the ruling party’s narrative,” Reddy stated. He urged the chief minister to accept responsibility for what he sees as a continuous threat to democracy in Andhra Pradesh.

Former PCC chief Gidugu Rudra Raju also spoke out against the assault, categorizing it as an affront to press freedom and a menace to democratic sanctity. He emphasized that disagreements over journalistic content should be addressed civilly through rebuttals, not through violence.

Echoing this sentiment, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) expressed its condemnation, marking it as a significant blow to press autonomy. Amar Devulapalli, a member of the IJU’s steering committee, recounted the establishment’s lengthy history of responsible journalism and its adherence to editorial ethics as the basis of the attacked report.

Responding to the backlash, Andhra Pradesh’s minister for education, IT, and electronics, Nara Lokesh, condemned the attack as well, encouraging members and supporters of TDP to maintain calm and engage respectfully, highlighting the need to handle disputes without resorting to destructive actions.

The Deccan Chronicle Employees Union described the attack as a “brazen act of violence” against the press. K. Jagan Mohan Reddy, the union’s general secretary, underscored the essential role of journalism in democratic societies and called for a collective response from political groups and civil society to denounce the aggression and ensure the safety of journalists.

Further, criticism arose from within the YSRC with Malladi Vishnu, a former MLA, pointing out that the TDP’s media outlets had engaged in biased reporting in the past without being targeted by violence. He argued that the assault was indicative of the TDP government’s failing commitment to press freedom.

Statewide, political figures like Ch. Babu Rao of the CPM condemned the attack as destructive to free speech, urging prompt and stringent action against those responsible. He criticized the TDP’s inconsistency regarding their earlier stance on the privatization of the Vizag Steel Plant.

The crescendo of disapproval was joined by Mehboob Sheikh and Dr. Ambati Naga Radhakrishna of the YSRC medical and doctors’ wings, respectively. They denounced the escalation of attacks on democratic institutions and the free press under Naidu’s administration, demanding immediate corrective measures.

This incident not only reflects the volatile intersection of politics and journalism in India but also highlights the ongoing challenge of ensuring press freedom against the backdrop of political discord. The state’s response to these critiques, as well as actions taken to protect journalists and uphold freedom of expression, remain pivotal considerations for the future of democracy in Andhra Pradesh.