GEETA SESHU writes from Bombay: The killing of Mid-Day (special investigations) editor J.Dey on Saturday, 11 June 2011, was the third death of a journalist in India over the last six months. In all three instances, investigations are on but no arrests have been made; much less is there any headway as to the killers or their motives.
The impunity with which these attacks have taken place only shows that, in India, freedom of speech and expression cannot be taken for granted. “The Free Speech Tracker” set up last year by the Free Speech Hub to monitor all instances of violations of freedom of speech and expression reveals that attacks on journalists and intimidation of editors and writers continued unabated.
# On 20 December 2010, Sushil Pathak, a journalist with Dainik Bhaskar in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, was shot dead while returning home after a late night shift. The general secretary of the Bilaspur Press Club, Pathak is surived by his wife and two children. An investigation began into his death but till February this year, no headway was made into it.
Following sustain protests from journalists’ organisations as well as opposition parties in Chhattisgarh, the state’s Chief Minister Raman Singh ordered that the investigation be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
# On 23 January 2011, Umesh Rajput, a reporter with Nai Duniya was shot dead by two masked assailants on a motorcycle. A note, stating “Khabar chaapna band nahi karoge toh mare jaoge” (If you don’t stop publishing news, you will be killed), was found near the crime scene.
Apart from these deaths, there have been 14 instances of attacks on journalist in this year alone.
# On January 3, Sudhir Dhawale, dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi, a Marathi magazine, was arrested and charged with sedition and links with Maoists.
# In January, Somanath Sahu, reporter of Dharitri, was prevented from attending a press conference at the office of the deputy commissioner of police, Shaheed nagar, Bhubaneshwar, and threatened with dire consequences for writing reports that went against the police.
# Rajat Ranjan Das, a reporter of Sambad daily, sustained fractures and head injuries by alleged supporters of Saikh Babu, a ruling Biju Janata Dal leader from Pipili, Orissa in February.
# In the same month MBC TV reporter Kiran Kanungo and cameraperson Prasant Jena were roughed up by a group of BJD workers in Banki. And, in a separate incident the same day, OTV reporter N.M. Baisakh and his cameraman Anup Ray were beaten up by anti-social elements in Paradeep when they were covering a protest dharna outside the IOCL main gate by local people demanding jobs and compensation.
# In February, an NDTV team of journalists and camera crew were harassed and illegally detained allegedly by staff belonging to the Adani group when the were filming a report on the large-scale destruction of mangroves in Mundra, Gujarat, due to the construction of a port by the company.
# In April, Bikash Swain, the publisher of Suryaprava, an Odiya daily alleged intimidation by police, following a series of adverse reports that he published. Last September, Swain was arrested by police and protests by journalists about vindictive action by police have obviously failed to have an effect.
# On May 3, ironically on world press freedom day, Goan Observer journalist Gary Azavedo was attacked and illegally detained by security staff of a mining company in Cauverm, Goa when he went there to cover the on-going agitation against mining companies.
# In May, three journalists were beaten up allegedly by CPI(M) supporters in Burdwan district in West Bengal.
# On May 8, in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, a group of youths, allegedly supporters of Nabam Tuki, Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee president and State PWD minister, attacked several media offices, including the local office of PTI and a local newspaper Arunachal Front, apparently to protest a report in a leading daily involving their leader.
# On May 19, MiD-DAY reporter Tarakant Dwivedi, better known as Akela, was arrested under the Official Secrets Act by the Government Railway Police (GRP) for an article written over a year ago in the Mumbai Mirror that exposed the poor condition in which hi-tech weapons procured after the 26/11 attack were being kept by the railway security forces.
# On May 21, unidentified assailants waylaid V.B. Unnithan, Kollam-based senior reporter of the widely circulated Malayalam daily, Mathrubhumi, and assaulted him with iron rods. Unnithan was heading home after work on April 16.
(Former Indian Express reporter Geeta Seshu is co-ordinator of The Free Speech Hub at The Hoot)
Also read: The unsung heroes who perished before J.Dey
J. DEY: ‘When eagles are silent, parrots jabber’