Indian subcontinent continues to be a dangerous place for scribes to pursue critical journalism. As 2016 ends with the cumulative statistics of 16 journo-murder incidents in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the broader region emerge as an unsafe haven similar to Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya where journalists are being deliberately attacked.The largest democracy in the world witnessed the murder of six journalists in 2016, while its neighbouring countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet (China), Maldives and Sri Lanka had not reported any such incident during that period. Of course, scribes had lost their lives in Afghanistan (5 journo-casualties), Pakistan (3), Bangladesh (1) and
Myanmar (1) to assailants last year.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ), more than 70 professional and non-professional journalists were killed worldwide in connection with their profession in 2016. Syria, like the previous years, topped the list with 14 journo-casualties, which was followed by Yemen with six, the same number in Iraq, Libya and Somalia with three each, and two each in Turkey and Mexico among others.
Surprisingly, India¹s troubled neighbour, lives of only three journalists were claimed by unknown assailants in Pakistan in 2016. They include Mehmood Khan of Dawn News, Shehzad Ahmed of Aaj
News and Muhammad Umar of Daily Dera News. The five scribes lost have been identified as Nematullah Zahir from Ariana News, David Gilkey from National Public Radio, Zabihullah Tamanna from National Public Radio, Yaqoub Sharafat fromRadio Television Afghanistan and Mohammad Zubair Khaksar from Nangarhar Radio and Television.
Similarly, Bangladesh reported the killing of one editor, Xulhaz Mannan of Roopbaan, a lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community magazine and a Samad Nazijmuddin of Ganajagaran Mancha to criminals. Also, the country has imprisoned Rahman Mahmudur of Amar Desh (since April 2013), Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury of Weekly Blitz (since January 2014), Salam Abdus of Ekushey TV (since January 2015), Kanak Sarwar of Ekushey TV (since March 2015) and Rimon Rahman of Amader Rajshahi (since September 2015) for various crimes.
Myanmar, which is changing into a multi-party democracy from a military regime, also lost one journalist to assailants in 2016. The Sagaing region based scribe named Soe Moe Tun, who worked for Daily Eleven newspaper was targeted by illegal logging mafia. The NayPieTaw-based regime has also imprisoned few scribes such as Lu Maw Naing of Unity (since January 2014), Aung Thura of Unity (since February 2014), Sithu Soe of Unity (since February 2014), Yarzar Oo of Unity (since February 2014) and Tint San of Unity (since February 2014).
More than 70 professional and non-professional scribes were killed in 2016, as per New York-based committee to protect journalists
Though Tibet was devoid of any journo-murder incident/s in 2016, but the Beijing imprisoned more than 49 scribes and 81 citizens for various offences. Even though Thailand witnessed no journo-casualty, but the the government there sent two scribes into jail. They include Somyot Prueksakasemsuk of Voice of Taksin (since April 2011) and Nut Rungwon and Somsak Pakdeedech of Thai E-News (since May 2014).
According to the year ending round-up by the Paris based Reporters Sans/Without Borders (RSF), altogether 348 journalists are currently detained in various parts of the world. The newly emerged disturbed nation Turkey has increased the number of detained/arrested scribe and media-contributors up to 100 during the year.
According to the round-up of 2016 by Paris-based Reporters Sans/Without Borders (RSF), 348 journalists are currently detained in various parts of the world.
Besides Turkey, the biggest jailers of journalists are China, Iran and Egypt. They alone account for more than two-thirds of the world’s detained journalists, said a RSF statement, adding that the persecution of journalists around the world was growing at a shocking pace.While this was so, in 2016, 52 journalists are currently held hostage. All of them are in conflict zones in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, Syria and Iraq are among the most dangerous countries, with the Islamic State alone holding 21 of these hostages, as per the statement.
India’s first incident of journalist murders in 2016 was reported from Uttar Pradesh, where a young scribe named Tarun Mishra was shot dead on February 13 at Gosaiganj locality in Sultanpur district. Mishra, 32, worked for a Hindi daily newspaper and he was targeted for highlighting the illegal soil mining activity in his district. Three miscreants on
motorcyle shot him from a close range near Ambedkar Nagar. The journalist succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
The second incident took place in Chatra area of Jharkhand, where a TV news channel reporter was killed by local goons. Two unidentified people targeted Indradev
Yadav (also known as Akhilesh Pratap Singh) at Dewaria locality of Chatra district on May 12. Yadav, 35, used to work for Taaza News, faced the bullets in front of the village Panchayat office and died on his way to the hospital. The next day (May 13), the third case came to light from Bihar where unidentified gunmen shot at Rajdeo Ranjan at Siwan railway station locality. Ranjan, 45, who worked for a national Hindi newspaper, died in the hospital. The journalist reportedly earned enmity of local political goons for his reportage against their misdeeds.
Many media rights bodies, including the CPJ, RSF, Press Emblem Campaign, Geneva, IPI, Vienna etc, called for probe into the killings
Both the incidents created instant wave of protests in Ranchi as well as in Patna and then it spread to other parts of the country. Various local, national and international media (rights) bodies, including the members of prestigious press clubs based in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Guwahati demonstrated their angers against the vicious attacks on scribes and demanded punishment to each and every
Shashi Shekhar, the chief editor of Hindustan narrated in his column wrote that journalism is amongst the most dangerous professions in the world today. The society needs truth and journalism is the most powerful medium to bring out that truth. We have made sacrifices and will continue to do so. The first target of this struggle will be to bring the killers of Rajdeo Ranjan to book. Another tragic incident came to light lately from Punjab, where a brave scribe named Anshita Bawa died under mysterious circumstances. Biswas on April 22 drove her vehicle to meet one of her friends. Instead of reaching her destination, her body was found floating in a canal at Bool locality of Sudhar areas.
Initially, it was understood as an accident or a suicide case, but the post-mortem narrated a different story altogether. The report revealed that Biswas, 22, was subjected to severe injuries before her death. She suffered nearly nine injuries with a fatal one on her head. Under pressure from her family members, the local police registered an FIR terming it a case of murder.
The focus then shifted to the relatively peaceful state of Gujarat, where a senior journalist was stabbed to death in his office on
August 22 night. Kishore Dave, 53, was attacked by miscreants when he was working in Junagadh office of Gujarati newspaper ‘Jai Hind’ and died on the spot. There was no CCTV camera in the one-room office, where an office assistant later found Dave’s blood-soaked body lying on the floor.Once again, the horror returned to Bihar as another journalist fell victim to goons on November 12. Dharmendra Kumar Singh, 38, who worked for Hindi daily ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ was targeted when the scribe relaxed at a tea stall outside his residence during his morning walk at Amra Talaab area 0in Rohtas district.
Three motor cycle-borne assailants fired at him and escaped from the location. Singh was brought to the Sasaram Hospital, but he succumbed to injuries on the way. Local scribes suspect the hand of stone-crusher mafia in Singh’s murder as he had exposed their illegal activities through his coverage.
The killings understandably angered the media fraternity both in India and abroad. Amidst protests by local journalist forums, many global media rights bodies, including the CPJ, RSF, Press Emblem Campaign (PEC, Geneva) and International Press Institute (IPI, Vienna) condemned the incidents and called for authentic probe into the murders. They also expressed concern that journalism in India was going through a worst phase.
Facing the heat, Nitish Kumar-led government recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the murder of Rajdeo Ranjan. After registering the case under Sections 302 (murder) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code, the CBI recently filed its first charge-sheet in the case. Despite CBI and police investigations, no assailant involved in the journo-murder cases across the country has been legally punished till date.
In 2015, assailants claimed the lives of Jagendra Singh and Hemant Yadav of Uttar Pradesh, Sandeep Kothari of Madhya Pradesh, Raghavendra Dube of Maharashtra, and Mithilesh Pandey of Bihar. At the same time, four freelance journalists namely Somaru Nag (since July 2015), Santosh Yadav (since September 2015), Surinder Singh (since October 2015) and Baltej Pannu (since November 2015) are spending time in jails for different crimes. The year 2014 had witnessed the murder of only two scribes (MVN Shankar from Andhra Pradesh and Tarun Kumar Acharya from Odisha), but the country lost 11 journalists, including three northeastern employees to perpetrators in the previous year. The north eastern states, which had witnessed the killing ofmore than 30 journalists in the past 25 years, has, however, remained safe for scribes in the past three consecutive years, despite theregion witnessing numerous incidents of threats and assaults on media persons. Assam alone had lost 15 newsmen to armed militants in the past three decades, but none has been convicted till date.
The writers is a North East-based journalist and Secretary of
Guwahati Press Club