The Odisha Police have arrested a sub-editor of a leading regional daily for publishing a photograph of Prophet Muhammad, triggering widespread protests by journalists on Wednesday.
The arrest came after a mob on Tuesday ransacked two offices of Odia newspaper Samaj, which carried the photograph and a small story in its edition on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday.
Demonstrations were held at the newspaper’s head office in Cuttack, and branch offices in Balasore and Rourkela. Protests turned violent at the branch offices, where printing machines and computers were destroyed. The police are yet to book anyone on arson charges.
Sub-editor Jitendra Prasad Das, who apparently used the photograph after downloading it from the internet, was arrested on Tuesday night. “He was booked for outraging religious feelings,” S Pravin Kumar, Cuttack deputy commissioner of police, said.
A senior editor of Samaj said, “It was a collective responsibility and we were all ready to be arrested. But, the police assured they were taking away Das for a while to defuse tension, but forwarded him to court instead.”
Islam prohibits making image of any person. In the orthodox tradition, photography is allowed only when someone needs a photo for travel or other purposes.
Journalists demanded unconditional release of Das. They also condemned the attacks on the newspaper offices, even though it had agreed to tender an apology.
“The matter falls within the domain of the editor and the publisher as per law... it is ridiculous to implicate a DTP operator or a sub-editor for the offence committed by the editor/ publisher,” said Prasanta Patnaik of Media Unity for Freedom of the Press.
He also blamed the Samaj management for making a junior editorial employee a “scapegoat”.