Skip to main content

Increase in online harassment of India's journalists by troll armies, hate messengers

By Nava Thakuria*
Each India year India records five to six journalists’ deaths take place. In the first half of 2019, so far two incidents of scribes’ murders have taken place. The first victim belongs to Maharashtra. Anand Narayan was reportedly murdered on June 4 at Antop Hill locality of Mumbai. Narayan, 38, was murdered at his residence by the miscreants.
Mumbai police have already registered a murder case over the fateful incident. The second casualty was reported from Madhya Pradesh, where Chakresh Jain, 40, was burnt to death by assailants in Shahgarh locality on 19 June.
India’s immediate neighbours, except Pakistan that routinely ranks among the most dangerous countries for scribes, have shown encouraging statistics. Those nations including Bangladesh, Tibet (under China), Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan have not reported any incident of scribe-murders since 1 January this year.
However, harassments to media persons have been reported from most of the countries in the Indian sub-continent. Besides local journalist organizations across the country, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have condemned the spate of attacks and murders of media persons in India and called on the authority for urgent action to improve journalists’ safety in the vast country.
The largest democracy in the world lost six journalists (Navin Nischal, Vijay Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, Achyuta N Sahu and Chandan Tiwari) to assailants last year. Bihar based-reporters, Navin Nischal (35) and Vijay Singh (26), were hit by a running vehicle in Bhojpur locality on 25 March and they died on way to the hospital.
Next day, Madhya Pradesh journalist Sandeep Sharma (36) was deliberately mowed down by a truck in Bhind locality and the dedicated reporter on environment issues succumbed to injuries on 26 March. Kashmiri journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari (50) was shot dead in Srinagar on 14 June by a group of militants.
Jharkhand journalist Chandan Tiwari (32), who used to report on corruption issues, was abducted and later his body was found on 30 October in Chatra locality, where Doordarshan cameraperson Achyuta Nanda Sahu (34) was killed in a Maoist (ultra-Left) terror attack at Dhantewada of Chhattisgarh on the same day.
The 2017 was reported as a deadliest year for Indian journalists, 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 killed in suspicious situations. 
Among the casualties, northeast Indian province of Tripura reported two incidents of journo-murder. Shantanu, a young reporter was beaten and stabbed to death during a protest demonstration at Mandai locality, where Sudip Datta was shot dead by a Tripura State Rifles constable at RK Nagar locality. In 2016, India witnessed the targeted killings of six scribes, whereas the previous year the country lost five journalists to assailants.
Journalists are are victims of police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians 
An improved statistics on journo-murder index was observed in 2014, when the country reported only two incidents of journo-murders. But year 2013 emerged a dangerous year for scribes with 11 casualties including three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) from Tripura.
According to Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF), or Reporters without Borders, the number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline as authoritarian regimes have tightened their grip on the media. Indeed, journalists have to work against totalitarian propaganda, censorship, intimidation, physical violence and cyber-harassment across the world.
In the latest world media freedom index, published by the Paris-based RSF, Norway topped the list of countries with admirable media freedom. Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belgium etc. follow it in the RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index. On the other hand, North Korea, China and Vietnam continue to be at the bottom of the list.
India (positioned at 140) is below than United States (48), Bhutan (80), Israel (88), Maldives (98), Nepal (106), Afghanistan (121), Sri Lanka (126), Myanmar (138) in the list, where Pakistan (142), Cambodia (143), Venezuela (148), Russia (149), Bangladesh (150), Vietnam (176), China (177), North Korea (179), Turkmenistan (180) etc follow it.
"Violence against journalists including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in India. Killing of journalists in connection with their works indicates many dangers that journalists often face, especially those working for regional media outlets in rural India,” said Daniel Bastard of RSF.
Speaking to this writer recently from Paris, RSF’s South Asia desk head added that other worrying trend that needs to be addressed in the Indian sub-continent is the high level of censorship and self-censorship, lack of pluralism in certain countries and political affiliation of media group owners.
With mainstream journalism going increasingly online and the advent of alternative media, newer threats are rising, observed Daniel. He said, "We are now seeing online harassment of journalists by troll armies, dissemination of false information, and hate speech messages calling for killing of journalists whose work displeases those in power and their supporters.”
The vulnerable Indian media fraternity has been pursuing for a national action plan to safeguard their interest in the line of military, police and doctors on duty. Their arguments are loud and clear; if India wants the journalists to do the risky jobs for the greater interest, their security along with justice must be ensured in the largest democracy on the Earth.
---
*Guwahati-based media activist

Comments

Manickavasagam Rangasamy said…
Freedom of the Press only for media moghuls, not scribes

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.