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Journalists' murder: No respite from attack on press freedom in South Asia, world over

Journalists protest against attacks on colleagues during Delhi riots
By Nava Thakuria*
Even as attacks on journalists continue unabated in South Asia and across the world, Pakistan has reported the murder of a journalist this year, whereas India has so far not reported any across the country. Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) indicates that nine journalists have been killed till date this year while on duty. Highest number of casualties are reported from Iraq (3) followed by Syria (2), Pakistan (1), Somalia (1), Nigeria (1) and Paraguay (1).
India witnessed one targeted casualty last year, though in all nine journalists were killed because of other reasons. Across the world, 49 scribes lost their lives while on duty. Except Pakistan and Bangladesh, India’s other neighbours namely Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tibet (under China), and Bhutan evaded any incident of scribe’s murder in 2019.
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Mexico tops the list with 10 incidents of journalist’s killings last year, followed by Afghanistan ( 5), Syria (5), Pakistan (4), Somalia (3), Yemen (2), Philippines (2), Brazil (2), Haiti (2), Honduras ( 2), Iraq (1), Haiti (1), Nigeria (1), Northern Ireland (1), the Philippines (1), etc.
Pakistan reported the mysterious death of Aziz Memon in Mehrabpur locality of Sindh province on February 16 last. Memon used to work for KTN Television and daily "Kawish" and his body found near his residence. The country lost four scribes (Aman Ullah Gharro, Ali Sher Rajper, Mirza Waseem Baig and Zafar Abbas) to assailants last year.
Afghanistan witnessed the murder of Javid Noori, Shafiq Arya, Rahimullah Rahmani, Sultan Mohammad Kairkhah and Nader Shah Shebzadeh, whereas Bangladesh reported the suspected murder of online journalist Ihsan Ibn Reza Fagun in 2019. India witnessed the incidents of nine journo-killings in 2019; of these one incident emerged as a case of targeted murder.
Andhra Pradesh-based journalist K Satyanarayana (45) faced the fate because of his performances as a working journalist. The committed reporter of Telugu newspaper "Andhra Jyothy" was hacked to death by miscreants at Annavaram village of East Godavari district on the night of October 15. Local scribes informed that Satyanarayana was targeted in an earlier occasion too.
Others who were killed this year include:
  • Jobanpreet Singh (Punjab’s online journalist was killed in police firing on December 19), 
  • Vijay Gupta (Kanpur-based scribe shot dead by close relatives on October 29), 
  • Radheyshyam Sharma (Kushinagar-based journalist murdered by his neighbours on October 10), 
  • Ashish Dhiman (Saharanpur-based photojournalist shot dead along with his brother by neighbours on August 18), 
  • Chakresh Jain (Shahgarh-based freelance journalist died of serious burn injuries on June 19), 
  • Anand Narayan (news channel contributor of Mumbai murdered by miscreants on June 4),
  • Nityanand Pandey (magazine editor in Thane killed by an employee on March 17), and
  • Kerala-based journalist K Muhammed Basheer lost his life on August 3 as a government officer driven vehicle mowed down him.
Bihar’s scribe Pradeep Mandal was targeted by miscreants on July 28, but he survived luckily. He contributed a number of news items against the local liquor mafia for Dainik Jagaran and invited enmities from the goons.
Pak journalists protest against attack on press freedom
Guwahati-based scribe named Naresh Mitra died on December 9 after sustaining head injuries in a mysterious accident inside the city. Otherwise, the trouble-torn northeastern region has once again evaded murder of any journalist in two consecutive years. Tripura reported the murder of five media persons between 2013 and 2017, whereas Assam and Manipur witnessed the last killing of media persons (Dwijamani Nanao Singh from Imphal and Raihanul Nayum from Dhubri) in 2012.
Till the recent time, the region was a breeding ground for insurgents fighting against New Delhi with demands for self-rule to sovereignty. Both the states were once severely affected by militancy, where over 30 separatist armed outfits went on with disruptive activities including extortion, kidnapping, and killings.
The year 2017 was recognized as a deadliest year for working journalists for India, 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, Tripura reported two incidents of journo-murder (Shantanu and Sudip Datta) that year. Earlier 2013 emerged a dangerous year for scribes with 11 casualties including three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) from Tripura.
Various national and international media rights bodies like RSF, IFJ, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), etc. came out with separate reports on journo-murders in 2019 and rightly continue raising voices for due probes and punishments to the culprits.
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*Guwahati-based scribe-activist

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