As Pakistan trails, India sets to improve journo-murder index

by Nava J. Thakuria

As the year 2020 rolls on, Pakistan reported the first murder of
journalists in the Indian subcontinent. All other countries in the
subcontinent have evaded killing of any scribes in the last two
months. Around the globe at least nine journalists have been killed
till date this year on the line of their duties, where the highest
number of casualties is reported from Iraq (3) followed by Syria (2),
Pakistan (1), Somalia (1), Nigeria (1) and Paraguay (1).

Contrary to it, the vast (also populous) country India witnessed only
one casualty last year improving in its journo-murder index where 49
scribes lost their lives on the duty hours around the world. Except
Pakistan and Bangladesh, India’s other neighbours namely Nepal,
Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tibet (under China), and Bhutan could
evade any incident of scribe’s murder during 2019.

Pakistan reported the mysterious death of Aziz Memon in Mehrabpur
locality of Sindh province on 16 February. Memon used to work for the
privately-owned KTN television and Sindhi-language daily Kawish.
Threatened by local politicians last year for his media reporting,
Memon was found dead in an irrigation channel near to his residence.
Last year, the country lost four scribes (Aman Ullah Gharro, Ali Sher
Rajper, Mirza Waseem Baig and Zafar Abbas) to assailants last year.
Afghanistan witnessed the murder of Javid Noori, Shafiq Arya,
Rahimullah Rahmani, Sultan Mohammad Kairkhah and Nader Shah Shebzadeh, whereas Bangladesh reported the suspected murder of online journalist Ihsan Ibn Reza Fagun in 2019.

According to International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Mexico
tops the list with 10 incidents of journalist’s killings last year,
followed by Afghanistan ( 5), Syria (5), Pakistan (4), Somalia (3),
Yemen (2), Philippines (2), Brazil (2), Haiti (2), Honduras ( 2), Iraq
(1), Haiti (1), Nigeria (1), Northern Ireland (1), the Philippines
(1), etc.

India as a whole witnessed the incidents of nine journo-killings in
2019, but only one incident emerged as a case of targeted murder.
Andhra Pradesh based journalist K Satyanarayana (45) faced the fate
because of his performances as a working journalist. The committed
reporter of Telugu newspaper Andhra Jyothy was hacked to death by
miscreants at Annavaram village of East Godavari district on the night
of 15 October. Local scribes informed that Satyanarayana was targeted
in an earlier occasion too.

Others who were killed this year include Jobanpreet Singh (Punjab’s
online journalist was killed in police firings on 19 December), Vijay
Gupta (Kanpur-based scribe shot dead by close relatives on 29
October), Radheyshyam Sharma (Kushinagar-based journalist murdered by
his neighbours on 10 October), Ashish Dhiman (Saharanpur-based
photojournalist shot dead along with his brother by neighbours on 18
August), Chakresh Jain (Shahgarh-based freelance journalist died of
serious burn injuries on 19 June), Anand Narayan (news channel
contributor of Mumbai murdered by miscreants on 4 June), Nityanand
Pandey (magazine editor in Thane killed by an employee on 17 March).
Kerala-based journalist K Muhammed Basheer lost his life on 3 August
as a government officer driven vehicle mowed down him. Bihar’s scribe
Pradeep Mandal was targeted by miscreants on 28 July, but he survived
luckily. He contributed a number of news items against the local
liquor mafia for Dainik Jagaran and invited enmities from the goons.
Guwahati-based scribe named Naresh Mitra died on 9 December after
sustaining head injuries in a mysterious accident inside the city.

Otherwise, the trouble-torn northeastern region has once again evaded
murder of any journalist in two consecutive years. Tripura reported
the murder of five media persons in 2013 and 2017, whereas Assam and
Manipur witnessed the last killing of media persons (Dwijamani Nanao
Singh from Imphal and Raihanul Nayum from Dhubri) in 2012.

Till the recent time, the region was a breeding ground for insurgents
fighting against New Delhi with demands for self-rule to sovereignty.
Both the States were once severely affected by the militancy, where
over 30 separatist armed outfits went on with disruptive activities
including extortion, kidnapping, and killings.

The year 2017 was recognized as a deadliest year for working
journalists in India as 12 scribes (Hari Prakash, Brajesh Kumar Singh,
Shyam Sharma, Kamlesh Jain, Surender Singh Rana, Gauri Lankesh,
Shantanu Bhowmik, KJ Singh, Rajesh Mishra, Sudip Datta Bhaumik, Naveen
Gupta and Rajesh Sheoran) were either murdered or reported killing in
suspicious situations. Among the casualties, Tripura reported two
incidents of journo-murder (Shantanu and Sudip Datta) that year.

Earlier 2013 emerged a dangerous year for Indian scribes with 11
casualties including three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit
Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) from Tripura. Various national and
international media rights bodies including Paris-based Reporters Sans
Frontiers (RSF), New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ), etc came out with separate reports on journo-murders in 2019
and rightly continue raising voices for due probes and punishments to
the culprits.

The author is a northeast India based media activist.

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