Photo journalists summoned over snapping president on Goa beach

Panaji : Three photo journalists were Wednesday summoned by the police for taking photographs of President Pratibha Patil on a Goa beach. A photo journalists association here, however, called the move an attack on media freedom.

In the photographs, taken Tuesday afternoon, Patil is seen wearing a colourful sari and sitting on a beach bed at Benaulim beach, 40 km from here, as a white couple wearing swimwear passes by. These photos were published in local newspapers Wednesday.

Around Wednesday noon, three photo journalists – Ganadeep Sheldekar working for local English daily The Navhind Times, Soiru Komarpant who works for another local English daily Gomantak Times and Arvind Tengse, a freelance photojournalist – were summoned by the Margao police. The police recorded their statement on how and why they clicked photographs of the president’s beach trip.

Patil is on a four-day private visit to Goa since Monday.

“The president’s security officer had told us that this was a private visit and that no photographers would be allowed to take pictures. Accordingly we had asked them to stay away from the president and her entourage,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Umesh Gaonkar.

He said that the photo journalists were allowed to leave after their statement was recorded. “We wanted to know how far they were from the president,” Gaonkar said.

Rajtilak Naik, president of the Photo Journalists Association Goa (PJAG), told IANS: “This is an attack on media freedom. We photo journalists are just doing our jobs. A beach is a public place, we have every right to take photos.”

“We took the photograph with a 400 mm zoom lens. We did not transgress any security barriers. This is harassment of journalists on duty. The president is a public person, why should there be a problem,” he added.

Sources at the Raj Bhavan, where President Patil is put up, however said that the presidential entourage was embarrassed by the sight of the sari-clad president sunning herself, along with the white couple, where the male tourist was bare-chested and his woman partner was wearing a bikini swim suit.

“The photographers were not allowed and the photos are not in good taste. According to members of the entourage, the president did not like the way the photos appeared,” a Raj Bhavan official said.

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