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Press Attacks: Ascension of our passive attitude towards violence



By Gaurav Sharma

With mounting attacks on scribes across the world, the fourth estate in India is drowning in the murky ocean of media intolerance.

Uncovering the truth is the profession of a journalist. However, truth always comes at a cost. Presently it is charged with the markedly heavy price of death.

Freedom House, an independent research and human advocacy group, contends that attacks on journos in the last decade has ebbed to its nadir. In India, the violence has risen rapidly with more than 80 journalists having been deprived of their lives in the last 25 years.

In Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Jagendra Singh, a Hindi journalist was burnt to death at the behest of a politician. On the same day, body of a journalist from Madhya Pradesh was found in Maharashtra while a photojournalist was beaten up in Jharkhand.

More recently, Arun Chaturvedi, an editor of a Hindi weekly was smashed with an iron rod for objecting to dumping of waste on the roadside.

While the government keeps making renewed assurances about their safety, little to no action has been taken against people previously involved in brazen attacks on media persons.

Compensating families of slain journalists without bringing to book the accused, is a denigrating attempt to buy their silence. Concrete steps need to be undertaken to ensure the cessation of such dastardly backlashes.

Immediate filing of FIR against such attacks is a basic necessity. Press Council of India’s (PCI) tinkering with the idea of an independent social security mechanism for proving insurance cover to journalists needs to be actualized.

It is now an established fact that government’s apathy is stifling the voice of the independent journalism. Moreover, for its crucial branch of investigative journalism to function freely, adequate security mechanisms are but a prerequisite.

Beyond blaming the government, the broader question of press freedom in today’s times of increasing conflict and intolerance can only be answered when each citizen understands the grave danger that violence poses to the democratic fabric of the nation.

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54 Journalists attacked in India in the span of 16 months by “lawmakers and law enforcers”, says Report

An Indian man reads a newspaper in front of a newsstand in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2016. VOA

New Delhi, May 3, 2017: As many as 54 attacks on journalists were reported in 16 months, mainly by “lawmakers and law enforcers”, a report compiled by media watchdog Hoot said on Tuesday, a day ahead of the World Press Freedom Day.

The report said the actual figure could be much higher as a minister told Parliament that “142 attacks on journalists took place between 2014-15”.

“The stories behind each of these attacks reveal a clear and persistent pattern. Investigative reporting is becoming increasingly dangerous. Journalists who venture out into the field to investigate any story, be it sand mining, stone quarrying, illegal construction, police brutality, medical negligence, eviction drive, election campaigns, or civic administration corruption are under attack,” it said.

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The attacks were committed by political parties and their leaders (8), police (9), and mobs resisting media coverage (9).

Apart from attacks, the report took into account invocation of sedition law, suspension of Internet services in a region, self-censorship on part of media companies, censoring of films and other arts, among other instances which may frustrate free functioning of the media.

The shutdown of the printing presses of two Kashmir newspapers after the killing of militant Burhan Wani, and the ban on Kashmir Reader for three months during the same period, were cited in the report as instances of media censorship.

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Other such instances included a one-day ban on NDTV news channel for its coverage of the Pathankot attack last January, which “… supposed to have revealed strategic information about the operation”.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry however put the ban on hold after the channel approached the Supreme Court.

The sedition law was also used unsparingly and “went viral”, as the report said.

“A large number of cases were filed — 18 between January and June last year. By the end of the year, the figure was 40,” it said.

The media watchdog cited examples of killings of Right to Information (RTI) activists, and appointment of ‘bureaucrats’ as Chief Information Commissioners instead of “persons of eminence in public life”, as the concerned Act says.

“Currently, 91.6 per cent of Chief Information Commissioners in states are retired bureaucrats, as are 93 per cent of Central Information Commissioners,” the report said.

Jammu and Kashmir suffered the longest and bans on Internet services the most — 13 times in 16 months, with Haryana coming second with Internet suspension nine times in as many months. (IANS)