Monday, June 13, 2011

Stand up for journalists to protect free speech in India!

Press Release
June 13, 2011

The killing of Mid-Day (Special Investigations) Editor J Dey on June
11, 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 December 20, 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 January 23, 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

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 NM 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

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.

Geeta Seshu, Coordinator, The Free Speech Hub (
Attacks on journalists in India – a report from The Free Speech Hub of

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