Skip to main content

Journalists' murder in largest democracies: Those working in conflict zones not alone in facing the brunt

By Nava Thakuria*
As we complete the first half of 2018, shocking news broke from America, one of the professed liberal spaces for journalists in a democratic world. A gunman stormed into the newsroom of a Maryland newspaper in USA and killed five media employees, including journalists. The June 28, 2018 shooting incident at "Capital Gazette" in Annapolis eliminating news-desk personnel Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John Mcnamara, Wendi Winters etc. suggests that journalists working in conflict zones alone are not facing dangerous times.
If the grand old democracy turns dangerous for scribes, the largest democracy in the globe maintains its status as a hazardous place for journalists. India reported the murder of four journalists in the last six months, and its troubled neighbour, Pakistan, follows with the casualties of two scribes. Another neighbour, Bangladesh, reported the murder of one editor-publisher, whereas other countries in the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives, evaded any incident of journo-killing.
India lost three journalists in mysterious accidents within twelve hours in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar on March 25 and 26, 2018. Sandeep Sharma (36), a dedicated reporter of Bhind locality of MP, was mowed down by a truck in morning hours.The "News World" reporter succumbed to injuries in the hospital. Sandeep used to contribute media reports against the sand mafia and he had been receiving threats.
On the previous night, two scribes, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, were hit by a luxury vehicle in Bhojpur locality of Bihar and died on their way to the hospital. Navin (35), who used to work for "Dainik Bhaskar" and Vijay (26), who was associated with a Hindi magazine, were riding on a two-wheeler when the accident took place.
Latest was the sensational report of the murder of well-known Kashmiri journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari, who was shot dead in Srinagar on 14 June by a group of militants. The proprietor and chief editor of "Rising Kashmir", Shujaat earlier faced similar attacks in 2000 and 2006. The brave and outspoken journalist was since provided government security. But this time, both of his security guards, Hamid Chaudhary and Mumtaz Awan, also died, facing the bullets of Islamist forces.
Starting his career in "Kashmir Times", Shujaat shifted to "The Hindu" as its Kashmir correspondent. Later he established Kashmir Media House that publishes the English daily "Rising Kashmir", Urdu daily "Buland Kashmir" and Kashmiri daily "Sangarmal". Hailing from Kreeri locality in Baramulla district, Shujaat has left behind his parents, wife and two minor children. He was cremated on the day of Eid after Ramzan's fasting days in his home place.
Pakistan lost journalist Anjum Muneer Raja, who used to work in Urdu daily "Qaumi Pukaar", to assailants on March 1. Raja, 40, was shot dead by the miscreants in a Rawalpindi locality while he was on his way to home in the late the evening. The second case was reported on March 27, when Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, a journalist from another Urdu daily "Nawa-i-Waqt" faced the bullets. Butt, 29, was allegedly targeted by the Begowala union council chairperson.
Bangladesh reported the murder of Shahzahan Bachchu on June 11 at Munshiganj locality. Editor of "Amader Bikrampur", Bachchu was suspectedly targeted by Islamists for his free-thinking comments. Various international rights bodies condemned the murder of Bachchu and urged the authority for genuine probe to find the culprits.
According various international agencies nearly 50 journalists lost their lives to assailants till date this year, where Afghanistan (casualty 11) tops the list. It is followed by Syria (7), Yemen, Mexico (5 each), India, USA (6), Pakistan, Mexico, Palestine, Philippines, United States of America, Ecuador (2 each), Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Syria (1 each) etc.
India is placed at 138 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' (RWB's) 2018 global press freedom index, followed by Pakistan (139), Thailand (140), Cambodia (142), Malaysia (145), Bangladesh (146), Mexico (147), Russia (148), Singapore (151), Turkey (157), Iraq (160), Egypt (161), Iran (164), Laos (170), Cuba (172), China (176), Syria (177) etc.
Norway and Sweden have maintained their first two positions, whereas North Korea continues to be at the bottom of the list. Countries which perform better than India include Myanmar (137), Philippines (133), Sri Lanka (131), Qatar (125), Indonesia (124), Maldives (120), Afghanistan (118), Nepal (106), Bhutan (94), Israel (87), Hong Kong (70), Fiji (57), Mauritius (56), South Korea (43), Taiwan (42), United Kingdom (40), Ghana (23), Belgium (7), Switzerland (5), Netherlands (3) etc.
The year 2017 was reported to be a deadliest year for journalists, as the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) claimed 82 casualties. India witnessed the murders of 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.
Among those casualties, northeast's tiny State of Tripura reported two incidents of journo-murder within few weeks. Shantanu Bhowmik, a young television reporter was beaten and stabbed to death during a protest demonstration at Mandai locality of western Tripura. On the other hand, Sudip Datta Bhaumik, who used to work for a Bengali newspaper, was shot dead by a Tripura State Rifles constable at RK Nagar locality in the same area.
Both the murders created sensation in northeast India and the then State chief minister Manik Sarkar received widespread criticism from various quarters. Earlier the Communist chief minister had to digest brickbats following the murder of three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) in Agartala during 2013. Lately, a young reporter (Suman Debnath) faced serious attacks at Dharmanagar locality of Tripura on June 18; however he survived.
By now, Tripura has a Bhartiya Janata Party led government and the new chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, following the saffron party’s poll promises, recently handed over the cases of Shantanu and Sudip to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for further probes. Meanwhile, CBI has booked three tribal leaders, Dhirendra Debbarma, Balram Debbarma and Amit Debbarma, in connection with Santanu’s murder. Dhirendra is a legislator nominated by Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, which is an ally to the ruling government in Agartala.
In 2017, Pakistan lost seven journalists, Muhammad Jan, Taimoor Khan, Abdul Razzaque, Bakshish Ellahi, Haroon Khan, Samar Abbas and Utpal Das, along with a novice scribe (Mashal Khan) to assailants. On the other hand, India's other neighbours namely Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives witnessed the murder of one scribe each.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), over 260 scribes faced imprisonment in 2017 for their works. Turkey, for the successive second year, emerged as the country with the highest number (73) of reporters imprisoned, followed by China (41), Egypt (22), Eritrea (11), Azerbaijan (10), Bahrain (9), Iran and Syria (7), Uzbekistan (6), Saudi Arabia (4) etc.
The Indian subcontinent reported the imprisonment of 25 media employees. Bangladesh leads with 10, followed by Myanmar (5). Besides imprisonments, many media persons are being abused and physically assaulted in different countries for their journalistic activities.
While international media rights bodies like RWB, CPJ, IFJ etc. have raised voices for justice to all slain media persons, the media fraternity in the Indian subcontinent continue pursuing for a pragmatic action plan to safeguard the journalists in the line of military, police and doctors on duty. They have put their arguments loud and clear, that if the nations want scribes to do risky jobs for greater interest, their security along with justice must be ensured.
---
*Media activist based in Guwahati, northeast India

Comments

TRENDING

Allow international human rights observers, media to access Kashmir: US lawmakers

Counterview Desk
In a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two members of the American Congress, Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, raising "significant concerns" about what they call "humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir”, quoting "credible reports" from journalists and advocates on the ground" have said that "the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents' and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.”

Rescind Gates Foundation award to Modi, demand three Nobel Peace laureates

Counterview Desk
In a major boost to those opposing the award to the Gates Foundation’s proposed to be awarded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire (1976), Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman (2011) and Shirin Ebadi (2003), have in an open letter called upon Milinda and Bill Gates to withdraw their decision, stating Modi is allegedly involved in human rights violations.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Now clampdown on rally, arrest of pro-freedom activists in Pak-occupied Kashmir

Counterview Desk
In a fresh evidence, international human rights organizations are not just confining their attention on the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose special status was taken away by the Government of India in early August, leading to an unprecedented clampdown on the region. They have simultaneously begun focusing on the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), where the situation is said to be worsening.
Thus, the International Human Rights Council ((IHRC) Hong Kong (HK), a top human rights organisation, said to be working towards to the promotion peace, equality, fundamental rights and social justice “as enunciated in the UN Human Rights Charter and other instruments of human rights”, has noted now a new wave of independence movement has struck PoK.  With offices in US, UK, Switzerland and Hong Kong, and having Kirity Roy and Lenin Raghuvanshi as IHRC office bearers from India, in a statement, it has claimed that on September 7 one of the biggest pro-Independenc…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are about 180 units in in the to…

Bullet train impact report Japan agency property: Govt of India tells Gujarat NGO

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) has told Gujarat-based environmental organization, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) that the detailed report of Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) representatives on their visit to Gujarat and Maharashtra assess the impact of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project on farmers is not its property, but that of JICA.

NHSRCL letter to PSS, signed by activists Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant and Swati Desai, comes following the latter’s request to it on June 10 for the report. PSS was one of the NGOs that represented JICA on the project, saying, if implemented, it would adversely impact farmers, even as pointing towards the fact that the project itself is unviable and Indian Railways needs to invest, instead, more on upgrading the present railway infrastructure.
Following the NHSRCL reply, PSS has shot a second letter to JICA, insisting that the latter should share a copy of the report, even as providing details of the …

Karma tribal festival an occasional to campaign for tribal rights: IPMSDL

By Our Representative
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), in a solidarity statement has suggested that the current Karam festival of Central India -- which seeks to promote sisterhood, friendship, cultural unity, and closer link to nature -- should be the occasion to campaign against alleged efforts to violently drive away forest dwelling communities from their forest homes.
"Millions are threatened to lose lands and livelihood under the implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006", the statement States, adding, "As corporate interests continues to enter tribal territories and extract profit from its natural resources, indigenous people are pushed to further marginalization and discrimination."
Asserting that indigenous movement in India "remains steadfast in keeping their culture, deeply linked to their lands alive by carrying out their heritage and struggles", IPMSDL, even as extending "…

US Air Force expert smells regional security threat following Chandrayaan mission

Counterview Desk
A United States Air Force expert, writing on India’s Chandrayaan -2 mission, has expressed the apprehension that Indian moon probe’s “failure” won’t stop an Asian space race that “threatens regional security.” Affiliated with the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Wendy Whitman Cobb, who is Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, believes like other space powers, India may be “seeking to improve its technology”, but advances can “also bring greater security concerns.”
Currently, admits Cobb, “These efforts have been primarily civilian and peaceful in nature.” However, India’s turn toward the military uses of space, so much so that lately it has been developing its own military satellites providing services such as remote sensing, tracking and communications “with greater frequency” has begun to “concern” the neighbours.
In her disclosure statement to an article published in the e-journal “The Conversation” Cobb, however, states that whatever…

Historic Chikhalda, temples, mosques submerged, activists 'rescue' Gandhi idol

By Medha Patkar
The first farmer of Asia was born in Chikhalda, if one is to believe archaeological researchers. A historic village, 50 percent of its population is of Hindus and 50 percent of Muslims, yet it has always remained peaceful. Chikhalda has struggled to save water, land and people along Narmada river.

South Gujarat wastewater carrying pipeline damaged, 'harming' farmlands

By Our Representative
The pipeline carrying industrial wastewater to the Gulf of Khambhat from Jhagadia industrial estate in Bharuch district has been found to have damaged for the eighth time over the last one and a half months. The crack, says a local environmental organisation, has occurred at Hansot, endangering agricultural farms.