By va Thakuria
Many may refer to India’s far-eastern region as troubled territory that often generates violence, but lately the region has seen a better track record with no killing of jourlists in last three & half years. Even though many incidents of misbehavior, threats and assaults vis-à-vis scribes continue in the Northeastern region, it has not reported murder of any mediapersons since January 2014.
Contrary to this, the central Indian States have witnessed killings of over 20 working jourlists in this period, inviting a bad me for the world’s largest democracy. As year 2017 completes half its journey, India stands at an awkward position in its jourlist-murder index, as four professiol jourlists have been killed in last six months alone.
The year started with sad news as the body of a Jharkhand based scribe was recovered in Hazaribag. Hari Prakash, 31, whose body was found on 2 January on the roadside, was missing for some days. The family members of Hari, who was a law graduate and used to work for a Hindi daily, alleged he was kidpped by miscreants and put to death.
Another bad news immediately followed as a Bihar based jourlist was shot dead at Samastipur on 3 January by some unidentified goons. Brajesh Kumar Singh, 28, received serious injuries on his head and died on the spot. It was the third assassition of jourlists in Bihar within a year after Rajdeo Ranjan and Dharmendra Kumar Singh were killed last year.
The third and fourth incidents involving the murder of working jourlists were reported from Madhya Pradesh. Shyam Sharma, 40, was engaged with a local evening newspaper, was stabbed to death by miscreants at Anshul locality of Indore on 15 May. Kamlesh Jain, 42, was shot dead in his office at Pipliyamandi locality of Mandsaur on the evening of 31 May. According to the police on duty, two miscreants barged into Kamlesh’s office, shot him fatally and fled on their motorcycle. Engaged with a Hindi daily (i Dunia), Kamlesh had lately exposed a few local people involved in illegal liquor trade through a number roadside dhabas. He had been threatened by those crimils with dire consequences a few days before his murder. The police have arrested two individuals suspecting their role in the crime.
Various media organizations like Madhya Pradesh Jourlist Union (MPJU), Jourlists’ Forum Assam (JFA), tiol Federation of Newspaper Employees (NFNE), Intertiol Federation of Jourlists (IFJ) etc., have expressed serious concern over the murder of jourlists and asked concerned authorities to book the culprits under the law of the land.
Condemning the killings of Shyam and Kamlesh, the IFJ commented ‘two murders in nearly two weeks illustrate the dangerous conditions that jourlists in India are facing’. The global media forum called on Indian authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate these murders and bring those responsible to justice.
In a recent statement, the IFJ, representing over 6,00,000 jourlists in 140 countries, disclosed that 93 jourlists were killed last year around the world, where India contributed 6 victims to the list. Iraq witnessed the highest number of scribe killings (15), followed by Afghanistan (13), Mexico (11), Yemen (8), Guatemala, Syria, India (6), Pakistan (5) etc.
This year till date, India’s troubled neighbour Pakistan lost three professiol jourlists and a media student to assailants. Muhammad Jan, who was working for an Urdu newspaper in Baluchistan province, faced bullets from miscreants on 12 January and died later. A student of jourlism med Mashal Khan was lynched by an angry mob in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 22 April over alleged blasphemy charge against him. Television reporter Abdul Razzaque was gunned down on 17 May in Punjab province. Lately Bakshish Ellahi of a TV news channel was shot dead by unknown gunmen on 11 June in Peshawar.
Committee to Protect Jourlists (CPJ) called on Pakistani authorities to investigate all the killings related to mediapersons and book the culprits urgently. The New York based media rights body also expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan, where four media workers mely Mohamad Amir Khan, Zinullah Khan, Abdul Latif and Ghani were killed in a suicide attack on 17 May at Jalalabad locality. Two more mediapersons mely Mohammed zir and Aziz vin died in a Kabul blast on 31 May.
Infamous for many bloggers’ killings, Bangladesh witnessed the murder of one rural reporter at Sirajganj locality. Abdul Hakim Shimul, who used to work for Dainik Samakal, was shot dead on 2 February, when he was covering the clashes between two factions of the ruling party Awami League. Bangladesh Manobadhikaar Sangbadik Forum strongly condemned the assassition, which was the first in 2017.
Tiny Maldives drew the attention of intertiol media this year with the sensatiol murder of a prominent jourlist and human rights defender. Yameen Rasheed, 29, an outspoken critic of corruption and human rights violations in the island tion, was stabbed to death on 23 April in capital Malé, thereby putting the small country in the list of risky tions with growing intolerance toward free information flow.
Relatively peaceful Myanmar reported one scribe murder in the first half of 2017. Wai Yan Heinn, 27, a Rangoon based weekly editor was killed on 16 April. Local media units as well as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the Myanmar authorities to identify and bring the culprits to book at the earliest. Mentioning the case of Soe Moe Tun, killed on 13 December 2016 allegedly for reporting on illegal logging, the Paris based rights body expressed resentment that the investigation has gone slow.
Lately, three jourlists in Myanmar mely Lawi Weng (The Irrawaddy), Aye ing and Pyae Bone ing (Democratic Voice of Burma) have been arrested by the Burmese Army on 26 June from Shan State and put inside Hsipaw prison. Amnesty Intertiol has called the authority to ‘immediately and unconditiolly’ release the jourlists.
India’s other neighbors including Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet (under Chi) etc have not reported any incident of scribe killings in the last six months. In contrast, the land of Buddha- Mahatma has emerged as one of the worst places for working jourlists, where they are attacked deliberately and justice rarely delivered to their bereaved families.
Comprising of eight States, India’s Northeast has lost over 30 jourlists in the last three decades, with the last killings reported in 2013 from Tripura. The killing of Sujit Bhattacharya (proof reader), Ranjit Chowdhury (mager) and Balaram Ghosh (driver) at the premises of Dainik Gadoot in Agartala broke as sensatiol news, as the Tripura had no recent record of murder of jourlists.
After big hue and cry, Tripura police arrested Sushil Choudhury, the Dainik Gadoot proprietor and editor. He was also convicted by the West Tripura district and sessions court for the triple murders. However, Choudhury got respite from the higher court; the Tripura government later forwarded an appeal to the Supreme Court against his acquittal.
Manipur and Assam, where over 30 separatist armed militant outfits are still active, witnessed the murder of Dwijamani o Singh at Imphal and Raihanul yum at Dhubri in 2012. Earlier, an Assamese editor Anil Mazumdar was killed in 2009 in the heart of Guwahati city. The previous year reported the assassitions of Konsam Rishikanta in Imphal and Jagajit Saikia in Kokrajhar.
Assam alone has lost 15 newsmen to armed militants since 1991, but shockingly no one has been convicted even today for these killings.