DEEPAK Obhrai, M.P. for Calgary Forest Lawn, on Monday held a press conference to denounce a vicious attack on a senior South Asian journalist, Kumar Sharma, following a Punjabi music open air concert (mela).
The attack on Sharma, which took place on Sunday, August 19, was reportedly as a result of a Facebook post critical of a candidate in the UCP (United Conservative Party) nomination in Falconridge.
(Sharma’s Facebook post had referenced UCP nominee hopeful Hardyal Singh (Happy) Mann.)
Sharma, host of a weekly show on Fairchild Radio Calgary, told the press conference that two people known to him as supporters of the candidate approached him and threatened him with “dire consequences” if he published the Facebook post.
“Situation became so tense that I feared for my safety. Because of that, I deleted the Facebook post right on the spot,” Sharma said. Subsequently, as he reached his vehicle to leave the concert grounds, he was viciously attacked from behind by a group of about seven men. He received treatment from paramedics who arrived at the parking lot and spent the next several days at home recovering.
“This has had a very severe impact on my health, on my emotional well-being and on my family,” Sharma said.
Deepak Obhrai condemned the attack on Sharma, who has worked as a journalist in Calgary since 1995.
“When influential people like US President Donald Trump say journalists are enemies of the people, this creates a poisonous atmosphere towards journalism. The vicious attack on Mr. Kumar Sharma is political violence towards a journalist. This is not only an attack on our freedom of speech, but on our democratic principles as well,” Obhrai said.
Obhrai called upon the Calgary Police to investigate this attack and charge those associated with this crime.
“Our own security and the safety of our communities are also threatened by such incidents,” Obhrai said.
[Link to the press conference video:
Mann in a statement to the media said: “I wish Mr. Sharma a full and fast recovery, however, I am very shocked and surprised to see Mr. Sharma and his team … falsely accuse me of being involved in this incident.”
CTV reported that Mann said Sharma has made false allegations against political adversaries in the past and he feels Sharma and Obhrai were in a rush to defame him before the UCP nomination. He said that once the police investigation into the attack was completed, he intended to sue Sharma and Obhrai “for defaming me and tarnishing my reputation in front of the community.”
Calgary Police are investigating the incident.
THE United Conservative Party later released the following statement:
THE UCP strongly condemns these violent acts and wish Mr. Sharma a full and speedy recovery.
We hope the Calgary Police quickly brings the perpetrators to justice and ask anyone with knowledge to contact the police.
We are aware of the allegations linking the event to an aspiring nomination contestant (note: the contestant has not yet been approved by the Party to run).
While the criminal investigation is obviously paramount, the UCP also asks that individuals with relevant information bring it to our attention as a review is underway.
Any individuals using violence such as this are not welcome in our party.