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Editors Guild writes to Assam CM on safety and protection of working journalists in the state

Letter comes in the wake of growing targeting of the media in the north east, EGI had written a similar letter to UP CM Adityanath recently

Sabrangindia 20 Nov 2020

Image Courtesy:outlookindia.com

The Editors Guild Of India (EGI) has written to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressing its concern on the “safety and protection of working journalists” there. The Guild has taken note of and expressed concern about the “growing incidence of violence against journalists” it stated that mediapersons working in the state “have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation, and threats,” and that such attacks vitiate “the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media”.

The letter stated that while Sonowal’s “firm condemnation” of these attacks was appreciated, the situation demands his “urgent intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia”. The guild added that in the absence of such a statement from the CM “a sense of impunity could embolden attackers who may believe that they are above the law”.

The guild reminded the CM for the need to speak up and mentioned attacks on journalists including the horrific one on journalist Milan Mahanta who “was tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly”, and the death of journalist Parag Bhuyam, who was run over by a car.

The Guild stated it was a “testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam”.

“We record our appreciation of your efforts in bringing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1991 with generous compensations. However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations. In many cases culprits roam free, intimidating the families of the slain journalists. We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear," concluded the Guild in the letter.

This is the letter the guild sent to Sarbananda Sonowal: 

November 19, 2020

Sh. Sarbananda Sonowal
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Assam
CM Block, Janata Bhawan
Dispur, Assam- 781006

Subject: Safety and protection of working journalists in the state of Assam

Sir,

The Editors Guild of India writes to you with deep concern about the growing incidence of violence against journalists in Assam. They have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation, and threats, which is vitiating the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media.

While we appreciate your firm condemnation of these incidents, the situation demands your urgent intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia. In the absence of that, a sense of impunity could embolden attackers who may believe that they are above the law.   

The manner in which Milan Mahanta, 42, who writes for Asomiya Pratidin and Dainik Asom, was tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly, is a testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam. A video of this assault has gone viral on social media. Mahanta, who has named the assailants, claimed that he was beaten up for his reportage against the Kamrup district gambling and land mafias. 

This incident comes close on the heels of the death of Parag Bhuyam, a journalist with Pratidin Time, who was overrun by a car near his home in Kakopathar. The Pratidin Time editor has alleged that Bhuyam was murdered as he had been receiving threats for exposing corruption and illegal activities of the criminal nexus in the Kakopathar area. 

We record our appreciation of your efforts in bringing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1991 with generous compensations. However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations. In many cases culprits roam free, intimidating the families of the slain journalists. We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear. 

Sincerely,

Seema Mustafa, President

Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary

Anant Nath, Treasurer

The letter comes in the wake of concerns being raised by local journalist bodies and organisations. The North Lakhimpur Press Club (NLPC) had also expressed concerns over the growing threat to working journalists and condemned the alleged murder of Kakopothar journalist Parag Bhuyan. According to a report in the Assam Sentinel the NLPC also raised concerns about the physical harassment of journalist Milan Mahanta by a group of anti-social elements of Mirja. The NLPC organized a protest meeting at its office on Monday, which was also National Press Day. The meeting was presided over by NLPC working president KumudBaruah while secretary Karuna Krishna Nath explained the objectives of the programme. 

The NLPC resolution has demanded the State Government identify the culprits involved in the mysterious death of Kakopothar journalist Parag Bhuyan and bring them to justice. It also  demanded the arrest of those antisocial people who harassed Mirja journalist Milan Mahanta. Regarding these issues, NLPC has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister through the Deputy Commissioner of Lakhimpur. The NLPC passed another  resolution to boycott all kinds of government programmes and reporting government news until those accused of harassing Milan Mahanta were arrested. 

The NLPC had also expressed strong resentment over the arrest of electronic media journalist of Dhubri district, Rajib Sarmah on Wednesday night. According to the Sentinel report Sarmah was arrested on the basis of an FIR lodged by Dhubri DFO, Biswajit Ray alleging that Sarmah had demanded money from him. Following the arrest of the journalist, his ailing father died on Thursday morning, allegedly unable to bear the shock of his only son being arrested from his residence. 

The Lakhimpur District Journalists' Association (LDJA) also condemned the arrest and demanded that the State Government release Sarmah who had been reporting about the alleged corruption in the forest department, which had aggrieved the department officials and the DFO stated the news report.

Related:

Right to free speech does not mean a licence to promote hate speech: Editors Guild of India
Take urgent action, prevent using Sedition to threaten journalists: IFJ, IPI tell PM Modi
Remember journalists Siddique Kappan, Aasif Sultan, Kishorechandra Wangkhem?

 

Editors Guild writes to Assam CM on safety and protection of working journalists in the state

Letter comes in the wake of growing targeting of the media in the north east, EGI had written a similar letter to UP CM Adityanath recently

Image Courtesy:outlookindia.com

The Editors Guild Of India (EGI) has written to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressing its concern on the “safety and protection of working journalists” there. The Guild has taken note of and expressed concern about the “growing incidence of violence against journalists” it stated that mediapersons working in the state “have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation, and threats,” and that such attacks vitiate “the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media”.

The letter stated that while Sonowal’s “firm condemnation” of these attacks was appreciated, the situation demands his “urgent intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia”. The guild added that in the absence of such a statement from the CM “a sense of impunity could embolden attackers who may believe that they are above the law”.

The guild reminded the CM for the need to speak up and mentioned attacks on journalists including the horrific one on journalist Milan Mahanta who “was tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly”, and the death of journalist Parag Bhuyam, who was run over by a car.

The Guild stated it was a “testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam”.

“We record our appreciation of your efforts in bringing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1991 with generous compensations. However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations. In many cases culprits roam free, intimidating the families of the slain journalists. We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear," concluded the Guild in the letter.

This is the letter the guild sent to Sarbananda Sonowal: 

November 19, 2020

Sh. Sarbananda Sonowal
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Assam
CM Block, Janata Bhawan
Dispur, Assam- 781006

Subject: Safety and protection of working journalists in the state of Assam

Sir,

The Editors Guild of India writes to you with deep concern about the growing incidence of violence against journalists in Assam. They have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation, and threats, which is vitiating the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media.

While we appreciate your firm condemnation of these incidents, the situation demands your urgent intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia. In the absence of that, a sense of impunity could embolden attackers who may believe that they are above the law.   

The manner in which Milan Mahanta, 42, who writes for Asomiya Pratidin and Dainik Asom, was tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly, is a testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam. A video of this assault has gone viral on social media. Mahanta, who has named the assailants, claimed that he was beaten up for his reportage against the Kamrup district gambling and land mafias. 

This incident comes close on the heels of the death of Parag Bhuyam, a journalist with Pratidin Time, who was overrun by a car near his home in Kakopathar. The Pratidin Time editor has alleged that Bhuyam was murdered as he had been receiving threats for exposing corruption and illegal activities of the criminal nexus in the Kakopathar area. 

We record our appreciation of your efforts in bringing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1991 with generous compensations. However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations. In many cases culprits roam free, intimidating the families of the slain journalists. We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear. 

Sincerely,

Seema Mustafa, President

Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary

Anant Nath, Treasurer

The letter comes in the wake of concerns being raised by local journalist bodies and organisations. The North Lakhimpur Press Club (NLPC) had also expressed concerns over the growing threat to working journalists and condemned the alleged murder of Kakopothar journalist Parag Bhuyan. According to a report in the Assam Sentinel the NLPC also raised concerns about the physical harassment of journalist Milan Mahanta by a group of anti-social elements of Mirja. The NLPC organized a protest meeting at its office on Monday, which was also National Press Day. The meeting was presided over by NLPC working president KumudBaruah while secretary Karuna Krishna Nath explained the objectives of the programme. 

The NLPC resolution has demanded the State Government identify the culprits involved in the mysterious death of Kakopothar journalist Parag Bhuyan and bring them to justice. It also  demanded the arrest of those antisocial people who harassed Mirja journalist Milan Mahanta. Regarding these issues, NLPC has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister through the Deputy Commissioner of Lakhimpur. The NLPC passed another  resolution to boycott all kinds of government programmes and reporting government news until those accused of harassing Milan Mahanta were arrested. 

The NLPC had also expressed strong resentment over the arrest of electronic media journalist of Dhubri district, Rajib Sarmah on Wednesday night. According to the Sentinel report Sarmah was arrested on the basis of an FIR lodged by Dhubri DFO, Biswajit Ray alleging that Sarmah had demanded money from him. Following the arrest of the journalist, his ailing father died on Thursday morning, allegedly unable to bear the shock of his only son being arrested from his residence. 

The Lakhimpur District Journalists' Association (LDJA) also condemned the arrest and demanded that the State Government release Sarmah who had been reporting about the alleged corruption in the forest department, which had aggrieved the department officials and the DFO stated the news report.

Related:

Right to free speech does not mean a licence to promote hate speech: Editors Guild of India
Take urgent action, prevent using Sedition to threaten journalists: IFJ, IPI tell PM Modi
Remember journalists Siddique Kappan, Aasif Sultan, Kishorechandra Wangkhem?

 

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