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NE: Improving journo-murder index

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By : Nava Thakuria

As the year 2019 approaches the finish line, India sets to improve its journo-murder index with two casualties where as our northeastern region (NE) evades any incident of scribe’s murder for the second  consecutive year. Indian sub-continent has witnessed the murder of 12 journalists during the year.
With only 49 journalists killed for journalistic works around the world (95 casualties in 2018)  till date, India’s share has also gone down from six to two. Moreover, its neighbours namely Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tibet (under China), and Bhutan have not reported any incident of scribe’s murder this year.
Pakistan and Afghanistan topped the list of journo-murders in South Asia as both the countries have lost five journalists each to assailants in 2019. Conflict-riddled Pakistan reported the murders of Zafar Abbas, Mirza Waseem Baig,  Muhammad Bilal Khan, Ali Sher Rajpar, and Malik Amanullah Khan for journalistic activities. Afghanistan lost  Jabid Noori, Nader Shah Sahebzadeh, Sultan Mohammad Khairkhah, Shafiq Aria, and Rahimullah Rahmani to assailants.
India as a whole lost six scribes in 2019, but only two murders are understood as being related to journalism related activities. Andhra Pradesh based journalist K Satyanarayana and Madhya Pradesh based journalist  Chakresh Jain faced the fate because of their works as journalists. However, four other cases are yet to be confirmed that they were targeted for media activities.
Young reporter Satyanarayana, who worked for Telugu daily ‘Andhra Jyothy’, was hacked to death by miscreants at Annavaram village of East Godavari district on the night of 15 October. Local scribes reported that Satyanarayana was targeted in an earlier occasion too and he informed it to the local police.   Jain, a freelance journalist died of serious burn injuries on 19 June as he was involved in a quarrel with the assailant at Shahgarh locality.
Others who were killed this year include Radheyshyam Sharma from Uttar Pradesh,  K Muhammed Basheer from Kerala,  Anand Narayan  and Nityanand Pandey from Maharashtra. Sharma was allegedly murdered on 10 October by his neighbours. Basheer lost his life as a running vehicle, driven by a senior government officer, mowed down him on 3 August. A news channel contributor (Narayan) was murdered on  4 June by miscreants and a magazine editor Pandey was killed in another incident on 17 March.
A young scribe from Bihar named Pradeep Mandal was targeted by miscreants on 28 July, but he survived luckily. He contributed a number of news items against the local liquor mafia for Dainik Jagaran and invited enmities from the goons. Meanwhile, a Guwahati based scribe named Naresh Mitra died on 9 December after sustaining head injuries in a mysterious accident inside the city as the soft-spoken scribe left for home in the evening hours.
India lost six journalists (Navin Nischal, Vijay Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, Achyuta N Sahu and Chandan Tiwari) to assailants in 2018, whereas the trouble-torn northeastern region has once again evaded murder of any journalist in two years. Often described as a disturbed zone because of relentless violence engineered by armed militants, the region (except Tripura) has avoided any incident of  journalist’s murder for many years.
Tripura reported the murder of five media persons in 2013 and 2017, whereas Assam and Manipur witnessed the last killing of media persons (Dwijamani Nanao Singh from Imphal and Raihanul Nayum from Dhubri) in 2012. Till the recent time, the region was a breeding ground for insurgents fighting against New Delhi with demands for self-rule to sovereignty. Both the States were once severely affected by the militancy, where over 30 separatist armed outfits went on with disruptive activities including extortion, kidnapping, and killings.
For Indian working journalists, the year 2017 is recognized as a deadliest year as 12 scribes (Hari Prakash, Brajesh Kumar Singh, Shyam Sharma, Kamlesh Jain, Surender Singh Rana, Gauri Lankesh, Shantanu Bhowmik, KJ Singh, Rajesh Mishra, Sudip Datta Bhaumik, Naveen Gupta and Rajesh Sheoran) were either murdered or killed in suspicious situations. Among the casualties, Tripura reported two incidents of journo-murder (Shantanu and Sudip Datta).
In 2016, India witnessed the targeted killings of six scribes, where as the previous year the country lost five journalists to assailants.
A satisfactory statistics on journo-murder index was observed in 2014, when the country reported only two incidents of journo-murders.  But year 2013 emerged a dangerous year for scribes with 11 casualties including three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) from Tripura.
Various international media rights bodies including Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) etc have come out separate reports that we lost around 50 journalists across the world in 2019, which is  the lowest death toll in 16 years.
While defining journalists as individuals who cover news or comment on public affairs in print, radio, television, online outlets etc, those organizations maintained that incidents of abuse, assault-attacks and imprisonment of scribes by government forces, political goons, anti-social elements, etc continue everywhere as over 350 journalists were imprisoned in 2019, where  China, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
Iran, Vietnam, etc have taken the lead.The author is a  northeast India based media activist.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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