Marangching Tragedy: Is this the wrath of Mother Nature?

Press Freedom assumed; But does it exist in Manipur

Written By: / Editorial / Tuesday, 03 January 2023 17:17

One of the most interesting news of 2023 that appeared in almost all Newspaper headlines published here in the state is Chief Minister N. Biren Singh’s concerns about Press Freedom and Freedom of Speech and expression guaranteed by the constitution of India.
The man leading the top position in the State government and who began his career as a renowned journalist recounted his days before joining politics, on how he struggled to protect freedom of speech and expression during his day while trying to convince a gathering on the occasion of the celebration of 42nd Foundation Day of Manipur evening vernacular daily “Kangleipakki Meira” held at Mongsangei here in Imphal yesterday.
What is more interesting to the concern of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh regarding Press Freedom was being delivered at a time when India’s Press Freedom rank has dropped to 150th position from 142nd rank last year among the 180 nations across the globe. The ranking was done as per research by “Reporters Without Border”.
Manipur, no doubt is an Indian state with just around 30 lakh plus population with just a geographical area of 22,327 sq.km. In this little state of India which occupies just around 0.24% as per the 2011 census report, there have been various instances of suppressing Pressman from discharging their duties. At least 6 journalists have been shot dead by armed groups or individuals, media houses were forced to close down. Reporters and Editors and those associated with media houses in the production of news had many times gone to the street pleading with authority to safeguard the press fraternity.  Considering those as unfortunate and unforgettable events, before N. Biren Singh became the Chief Minister of Manipur. Let us try to go in depth about the condition of Media houses and those working in Media houses today.
There are no provisions that protect the Press in the constitution of India. Though the interpretation of Article 19(A) of the constitution by various courts of law have associated the Press Freedom. Having said so, unlike the Press Freedom guaranteed in country like the United States, the Indian system have not given absolute freedom to hide their news sources when asked by the court and various legal provision.
Coming back to what Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had stated his intention to protect the pressman, he is not mentioning the constitutional clause mentioned in Article 19(A) which guaranteed freedom of speech and expression. This provision does not limit to journalists alone but to all law-abiding citizens of the country.
Today, even though there has been no complaint from media houses of the state or journalists recognized by the DIPR or by various Journalist bodies like AMWJU, MHJU or EGM, there were instances of Government Agencies troubling the journalists. For instance, Journalists of the state staged protests by stopping the publication of news for 2 days for summoning various journalists including Editors and the President of the All Manipur Working Journalist Union. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh was right when he said that, politicians or Ministers have the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.
But then why college teachers are restricted from attending public discourse or panel discussions on Local TV shows? Why do teachers have to follow a lengthy process for attending public discourse on local TV? This perhaps is no other than silencing the voice of academicians. Besides this, why there should be a censor body at the state level for the publication of books?
As the Chief Minister has said that there should be healthy and constructive arrangements or criticism to move the state/nation ahead, let us hope that everyone is given the equal right to speak. If any anti-social or immoral speech has been delivered let the law of the land deal with it. State government should not interfere if our Chief Minister N. Biren Singh has a strong commitment to ensuring Freedom of Speech and Expression in the state. 

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About the Author

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 25+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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