Lay off hands on the media
Targeting the media
Not the first time and this most probably will not be the last time either, but what has made the latest case all that more diabolical is the point that even after 7 days of the incident, no group has claimed responsibility. For one full week Imphal based newspaper houses were forced to shut shop and the why of this must be known to all. It was exactly one week back, that is on February 13 that the Editors’ Guild Manipur (EGM) and All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) had to convene an emergency body meeting after a yet to be unidentified miscreant lobbed a grenade at the office of a vernacular daily and an English daily at about 8 pm. The grenade did not explode, maybe since it was not scripted to explode, but it was enough to evoke a strong protest from the media fraternity, and once again all media houses came together to strike a united stand. This was not the first time that the media had come under threats and attacks and what is more stupefying this time around is the fact that even after one week of the incident, no group has come forward to claim responsibility. Not creating rooms for the perpetrators to justify their act, but it is significant to note too that no one knows why the grenade was lobbed. Is it a case of the perpetrators coming to their senses that no explanation can justify the act of lobbing a grenade at the office of a newspaper, or is it a case of silently rolling up their sleeves to deliver a more powerful statement without disclosing their identity ? All questions at the moment, but this is what has made the recent case different from the earlier ones, when media houses came under such attacks. No answers so far, but the Imphal based media has now come back to work and what is being read now, is written after observing the developments in the last seven days.
The past tells the unpleasant and ugly story of the media being made the scapegoat in the event of any stand off between two armed or factions of an armed group. Back in 2007, a live mortar wrapped in the box of a Nokia cell phone was ‘gifted’ to the Editor of The Sangai Express even as the journalists were in a tense meeting discussing the stand off between two groups of an underground outfit. The gift came in the backdrop of one group insisting that their statement be published, failure of which will attract harsh punishment, and the other equally insisting that the statement issued by the other group should not be published under any circumstances. Just quoting an example to demonstrate that while the world has certainly moved on from 2007 to 2021, certain things refuse to move with the demands of the time and what was witnessed on February 13, 2021 took one back to the earlier days when media houses in Imphal had to suspend publication following immense pressure from the power players. Such is the situation that threats have been issued even against the distributors (locally known as hawkers), stating that they will be targeted if the statement issued by such and such group is not published. Pressure of different kinds and certainly the media in Manipur can do without this but the only point is whether those mounting the pressure will ever come to their senses that such tactics will only further erode their credibility. The very fact that no one has claimed responsibility for the grenade lobbed at the office of the vernacular daily and an English daily is what has made the latest case all that more uncertain, adding more to the apprehension of the media professionals.