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THIRD WORLD RESURGENCE

Threats to journalists are now omnipresent

Journalists across the globe, and not only those in conflict zones, are increasingly endangered.

Nava Thakuria


AS we entered the second half of 2018, shocking news came from the United States, the professed home of free speech on earth.

A gunman stormed into the newsroom of a Maryland newspaper and killed five media employees, including editors, reporters and a sales person. The shootings at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis are a reminder that journalists across the globe, not only those in conflict zones, are increasingly endangered.

If the grand democracy of the US has recently turned dangerous for scribes, the world’s largest democracy continues to uphold its status as a hazardous place for journalists.

India reported the murder of four journalists in the last six months, a pattern reflected in its troubled neighbour Pakistan where two have been killed in 2018. Bangladesh has seen the murder of one editor-publisher since 1 January, whereas other countries on the subcontinent have avoided murders of journalists.

India lost three journalists in mysterious accidents within 12 hours in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar states on 25 and 26 March. Sandeep Sharma was a dedicated 36-year-old News World reporter in Bhind, deliberately mowed down by a truck in the morning hours. He later succumbed to injuries in hospital. Sandeep used to contribute media reports against the sand mafia and had long received threats.

On the previous night, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh were hit by a luxury vehicle in the Bhojpur locality of Bihar and died on their way to the hospital. The 35-year-old Navin, who used to work for Dainik Bhaskar, and 26-year-old Vijay, who was associated with a Hindi magazine, were riding on a two-wheeler when the accident took place.

Then, well-known Kashmiri journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead in Srinagar on 14 June by a group of militants. The proprietor and chief editor of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat earlier faced similar attacks in 2000 and 2006. The brave and outspoken journalist had since been provided government security. But this time, both of his security guards, Hamid Chaudhary and Mumtaz Awan, also died facing the bullets of violent Islamist forces.

Starting his career at the Kashmir Times, Shujaat shifted to The Hindu as its Kashmir correspondent. Later he established Kashmir Media House that publishes English daily Rising Kashmir, Urdu-language daily Buland Kashmir and Kashmiri daily Sangarmal.

Shujaat left behind his parents, wife and two young children. He was buried on Eid at the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadhan.

Pakistan lost Anjum Muneer Raja, who used to work in Urdu daily Qaumi Pukaar, to assailants on 1 March. Raja, 40, was shot dead by the miscreants in Rawalpindi locality, while he was on his way home in the late evening.

The second case in Pakistan was reported on 27 March, when Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, a journalist from another Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt, faced bullets. Butt, 29, was allegedly targeted by the chairperson of a local government.

Bangladesh saw the murder of Shahzahan Bachchu on 11 June in its Munshiganj locality. Editor of Amader Bikrampur, Bachchu is thought to have been targeted by fundamentalists for his free-thinking comments. Various international rights bodies condemned his murder and urged the authorities to launch a genuine probe to find the culprits.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), over 260 scribes were facing imprisonment in 2017 for their work. Turkey, for the second successive year, emerged as the country with the highest number (73) of reporters imprisoned, followed by China (41). South Asia reported the imprisonment of around 25 media employees, where Bangladesh has 10 people imprisoned followed by five in Myanmar. Besides imprisonment, many media persons are being abused and physically assaulted in different countries for their journalistic activities.

While international media rights bodies like Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CPJ and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have called for justice to all slain media persons, the media fraternity in the Indian subcontinent continues to pursue an action plan to safeguard the journalists akin to military, police and doctors on duty.

They have raised their arguments loud and clear that if nations want journalists to do risky jobs in the name of public interest, their security along with justice must be ensured.      

Nava Thakuria is a journalist who has been covering northeast India for various local, national and international media outlets since 1990. He primarily writes on socio-political and environmental issues in the region, and has developed a special interest in media matters.

      This article is reproduced from the Asian Correspondent website (asiancorrespondent.com).

*Third World Resurgence No. 329/330, January/February 2018, p 51


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