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Imphal: The Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) has registered a case with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi, against the “arbitrary detention” of a senior journalist by Manipur police for his statement on local TV on state government’s anti-drug policy.

In a letter to the NHRC in New Delhi, the HRDA expressed concern about the alleged “harassment, illegal search of a residence, and arbitrary detention of senior journalist Hemantakumar Ningombam by police in Imphal East”. The letter was signed by HRDA national working secretary Henri Tiphagne

Senior journalist Hemantakumar Ningombam is the editor of Sanaleibak, a local Manipuri vernacular daily.

The HRDA appealed to the NHRC to treat the incident as a case of reprisal against a “journalist and a human rights defender for exercising his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights”.

It further urged the NHRC to urgently direct the director general of the police of Manipur to initiate an immediate and impartial investigation into the matter and submit a report to the NHRC within two weeks.

It also asked security for Ningombam.

According to the HRDA, on Wednesday at around 7:30 am, three vehicles of Manipur police personnel led by the second officer-in-charge of Irilbung Police Station went to the residence of Hemantakumar Ningombam. The police personnel took him to the Irilbung Police Station and detained him for around four hours before he was released.

It also mentioned that M Pradip Singh, SP Imphal East and Themthing Ngasangva, IGP, came to meet the editor at the police station.

According to the HRDA, the reason for the detention as given by the police was expressing his opinion on the government’s anti-drug policy in relation to the poppy cartel on a panel discussion on ISTV, a local TV channel.

The HRDA stated that this was not the first time the security personnel arrested and detained journalists in the state for expressing his/her opinion against the government. 

Earlier, there have been numerous cases where many journalists have been arrested and booked under the National Security Act on frivolous charges, it stated.

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“We firmly believe that the act of subjecting a senior journalist to a search without any search warrant and then subjecting him to harassment by detaining him in a police station are acts of political reprisal to suppress any dissent against government policy,” HRDA stated.

Journalist Ningombam, meanwhile, said the police could have called him in good faith rather than going for the heavy-handed approach.

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