Odisha daily's offices set on fire over blasphemy

Violent protest forces newspaper to tender unconditional apology

Offices of “Samaja”, Odisha’s leading language daily, were ransacked and set on fire in several places in the state on Tuesday following the publication of a controversial picture of Prophet Mohammad. 

The violent protest forced the 94-year-old newspaper to tender an unconditional apology on the front page of its Wednesday’s edition. The police arrested an editorial staffer of the newspaper in connection with the development.

The photograph was published in the newspaper on Tuesday on the occasion of Prophet Mohammad’s birth anniversary.

The attack was most severe in the leading Odia daily’s office in the north Odisha town of Balasore where the newspaper prints an edition. Miscreants entered the office premises and ransacked it before setting it on fire. The damage due to the attack was estimated at around Rs 5 crore, including newsprint worth around Rs 1.5 crore.
Similarly, angry protesters stormed into the newspaper’s office in Rourkela and ransacked it. The local police prevented the office from being set on fire.

The prestigious and popular newspaper’s headquarters in Cuttack, where it publishes its main edition, was also attacked and stoned, forcing the local police to cordon off the office building.

Newspaper executive editor Satya Ray told Deccan Herald that the publication of the controversial photograph was unintentional. “We had searched the internet and found the photograph on Google which was subsequently used. Therefore, we are not at fault in the entire episode. Still, we have tendered an unconditional apology. We will be more careful in future.”

The senior journalist condemned the attacks.

The newspaper registered complaints in police stations in Balasore, Rourkela and Cuttack. Police complaints have also been filed against the newspaper in police stations in different places.

Journalists and their associations have condemned the attack on the newspaper offices. 

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