West Bengal: Not new to violence towards journalists


By Arnab Mitra

Twenty-one journalists from various media houses were attacked and injured on October 3, while they were covering the elections to the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation in West Bengal.

These attacks have once again brought forward the issue of freedom of press and the safety of the journalists working in the field.

According to Forbes Media, more than a thousand journalists have died since 1992 while covering crossfires, handling dangerous assignments, or in combat related fatalities but murder is by far the leading cause of the death of Journalists.

In the year 2015, 44 Journalists were killed in different parts of the world. In India, three journalists were killed and many were attacked while covering the news. In Madhya Pradesh, Aaj Tak Journalist Akshay Singh died covering Vyapam scam. Journalist Sandeep Kothari was killed in Madhya Pradesh after he revealed the illegal mining activities and the Shahjahanpur based Social Media Journalist Jagendra Singh was allegedly killed by the local police at the behest of the State Backward Classes Welfare Minister Ram Murti Verma in Uttar Pradesh.

Not only in India but in every corner of the world Journalists are routinely threatened or killed by powerful and influential people who fear the pen more than the sword. In Bangladesh, blogger Niloy Neel was mercilessly killed by the Islamic terrorists. In France, 12 journalists were killed in an attack on French Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on January 7, 2015 by two Islamist gunmen due to their controversial cartoon of Prophet Muhammad. The American Journalist James Folley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) when they were covering the war in Syria.

In West Bengal there have been many incidents where the Government tried to choke the freedom of the Press. The black period of Indian Journalism was said to be during the Emergency from June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977. The leading newspapers like The Hindu, The Statesman, and The Times of India had published newspapers with blank editorials as a mark of protest against media censorship. At that time, many journalists were tortured and sent to jail, including Barun Sengupta- the founder editor of leading Bengali Newspaper Bartaman, Gour Kishore Ghosh- founder editor of leading Bengali newspaper Aajkal, and Kushwant Singh.

In 1984, the Anandabazar office was forcefully closed down by congress hooligans for 51 days. Journalist Avijit Basu had to pay the price for unearthing the picture of ‘Real Democracy’ on August 13, 2000 when he covered the CPI(M) atrocities in Uttarpara-Kotrang municipal elections (Source: Anandabazar Archive). From Bidhan Chandra Roy to Mamata Banerjee, every ruler feared the pen and the incident at Bidhannagar again proved the hapless attitude of a coward government..

The recent attacks in Bidhannagar have been severely condemned by various journalists belonging to different media houses.

Professor Santwan Chattopadhyay, Department of Journalism, Jadavpur University said: “I totally condemn the attack on the journalists, but it is nothing new. Do not forget the attack on the woman journalist when there was a late night meeting in Subhaprasanna’s house before the change of government.”

Thirumoy Banerjee, Sub-editor, Times of India stated: “Not just as a journalist, but also as a common man, it pains me to see members of the media being beaten up like this.” Shantasree Sarkar, Assistant Producer, India Today called the attack as “atrocious” and added: “This is the death of democracy and silencing media will not stop their brutality.”

NewsGram condemns these attacks on the journalists in West Bengal, and we urge the government to remember that “The Pen is mightier than the sword”.