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

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

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.

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara 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".

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Catholic women warn: Kerala Bishop turning Church into puppet in political games

Counterview Desk A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India has said that they are deeply concerned over "a bishop’s controversial statement" which may threaten communal harmony in India. As many as 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to "foster peace and avoid strife."

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.