The predicament of journalists and media houses

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh
Contd from previous issue
A report published by the Press Trust of India (PTI) in 2014, carried out the news that among 23 journalists killed in 2013 in South-Asia, 12 were from India alone. The report also indicated the Government for not solving the mystery of the killings of the journalists. The PTI report in 2014, quoting the IFJ report of 2012, said that most disturbing development is the increasingly targeted nature of violence in both Pakistan and India. The report of PTI in 2015 and 2016 also said that most of the killing of journalists remained unsolved. Actually in many cases, the trial of the accused did not even take off. The latest report of CPJ said that about 11 journalists identified as working on corruption and politics were killed in the last 10 years and their murder mystery is not yet resolved. It means that they were perfectly planned murders.
The CPJ report (2015) published in “The Hoot” portal under the title “Getting Away with Murder”, has stated that India’s impunity index rating is 0.08 making India’s presence among the countries known for killing journalists with impunity for eight successive years in a row. In 2017, the IFJ demanded that the Central Government should bring in a law that ensures the security and protection of the working journalists and freelancers operating in Maoist or extremist infested areas such as North-East, Central and South India, as reported by PTI in 2016. It is also demanded the Government to bring in an insurance scheme of not less than 100 million rupees for scribes so that their families do not suffer economically if something unfortunate befalls on them. A report by Freedom House in 2016 said that with the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, the freedom of press touched its lowest point in last 12 years owing to political criminals and terrorist forces seeking to co-opt or silence the media in their struggle for power. The report further analyzed that heightened partisanship and polarization in a country’s media environment and the degree of extra-legal intimidation and physical violence against journalists. Reporters Sans Frontiers in its report held the view that mafia and cartels began to pose the biggest threat to media freedom worldwide.
In the case of North-East India, the media has been caught between various militant outfits as well as police or military. The Manipur press also confronts a similar threatening situation. On the one side, the media personnel get threats from different militant outfits and on the other side, the police and the military threaten media of dire consequences including threats of encounter. There are twin reasons for this: first the militants’ outfits wage war with the State of Manipur and Government of India and second, they enter into conflict with other militant outfits to gain upper hand in the region. As a result they send different notices of threats to media for publication. If media publish one outfit’s notice, it will invite the wrath of a rival militant outfit. Against this backdrop, the media associations have promulgated a code of conduct for all its media personnel on 19th June 2005 which is still in force. Besides this, journalists in Manipur also get threats from the coteries of high profile and powerful politicians for exposing their loopholes and wrong doing to the public. One such a case reported that the Editor of an English Evening daily was questioned by two close associates of a heavy weight politician of Manipur for allegedly reporting misappropriation of MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund on 30th June 2019. In another case, one Manipuri Journalist was also booked under NSA on the ground that he used derogatory words in social media against CM of Manipur and PM of India. A journalist in western Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli was beaten up on camera by a group of GRP personnel led by SHO Rakesh Kumar in the night of Tuesday the 11th June 2019 when he went to cover a train derailment. He was forced to strip, thrashed and even urinated in his mouth. In another incident, Mitali Chandola, a female journalist was shot at in east Delhi’s Vasundhara Enclave by some masked men inside the car and eggs thrown at her before speeding away. She was then admitted to hospital. On 17th January 2021, Editor –in-chief and the Executive Editor of a local (Manipur’s) web portal were arrested for the publication of an article based on an FIR under Unlawful Atrocities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Section 124A (Sedition) of the IPC by Singjamei Police. On 29th January 2021,The Editors Guild of India condemned the “intimidating manner” in which the police of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh registered cases against journalists and editors for reporting the violence during a tractor rally protest by farmers in Delhi on 26th January 2021. The FIR was filed against, India Today journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald’s , senior Consulting Editor Mrinal Pande, Quami Awaz editor, Zafar Agha, The Caravan magazine’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, The Caravan’s editor Anant Nath and its executive editor Vinod K Jose. On Saturday the 13th February, a hand grenade was lobbed at the office of a leading Manipuri local daily “Poknapham”. Killing and threats to Journalist are due to different reasons. Government need to enforce a law for safety and security of journalists so that what is called 4th pillar of democracy (Journalism) can work proactively for good governance and welfare of the people.
The writer is an Associate Prof .JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal and can be reached at : [email protected]