New Delhi, 2 November 2021: On International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Indian Journalists Union along with its affiliates denounces crimes targeting journalists that remain unpunished while the masterminds walk free and has demanded that both the Central and State governments put an end to the culture of impunity.
The demand has been made in letters addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Anurag Thakur. At the same time, the IJU urges the Press Council of India to urgently set up a committee to address the issue of impunity, the growing harassment and intimidation of journalists by governments invoking the sedition law and importantly that its three-member committee on attacks on Kashmir journalists and stifling of independent media there release its findings at the earliest and ensure that its recommendations are acted upon.
India, the world’s largest democracy, has a grim record of 55 journalists killed between 2010 and 2020 and many others since. Of the long list of murders and targeted killings, just one case has been resolved. The remainder lie largely cold, waiting for authorities either unwilling or incapable (or both) to deliver adequate investigations at the outset, let alone bring perpetrators to justice.
This deliberate inaction has a chilling effect on journalists and media workers as they continue to risk working under dangerous environment of harassment and intimidation both online and offline – with perpetrators brazen in the knowledge that they can elude punishment. Other than the violence, physical attacks and killings, the IJU is gravely concerned over increasing misuse of laws to silence journalists, as has been particularly seen in sedition cases being slapped against scores of journalists highlighting the government’s handling of the pandemic. This apart, number of media groups, online websites and electronic media have been subjected to IT and ED raids, to silence critical and independent media.
In a statement, IJU President and former member of Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and International Federation of Journalists Vice President Sabina Inderjit said: “Such actions put a big question mark on India’s press freedom record. The rising attacks, harassment, intimidation of journalists and unprecedented attempts to suppress truth, by the powers-that-be are stifling the fourth estate, which deny the citizens’ right to information, and to form an informed opinion, critical to any democratic society. Journalists have lost their lives, are being imprisoned, forced to fight long legal battles among other forms of persecution while carrying out their duties.”
Worse, “Justice eludes and a nagging fear of reprisal lurks in the media today. The IJU has been vociferous in its criticism of the gagging of independent media, has been demanding a safe environment for the journalists and a safety law to protect the fourth estate.” It demands that governments respect press freedom and let the media and journalists carry out their responsibilities, without fear or favour. The Press council of India, which too is a watchdog of press freedom must play the role it has been assigned and live up to the expectations of the journalist fraternity.