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'Smashed' by Covid, India second most dangerous country for working journalists

By Nava Thakuria*

Largely smashed by the Covid-19 pandemic the mainstream Indian media has witnessed an alarming number of incidents relating to journalists’ killings this year. As the year approaches the end, India turns out to be an unsafe country for professional journalists after Mexico only. The billion plus nation braces news about journo-murders relentlessly in the second half of 2020.
The latest gloomy news broke from Tamil Nadu, where Telugu scribe G Nagaraj (45) fell prey to the assailants on November 22. Working for Tamil newspaper Villangam, Nagaraj was attacked by a group of goons with sharp weapons in full public view at Hosur locality. Seriously injured, Nagaraj was taken to a nearby government hospital where the doctors declared him brought dead. A native of Palaru village in Andhra Pradesh (AP), Nagaraj was also associated with Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha.
“Till date, we have documented killings of 80 journalists since 1 January 2020 besides 479 corona-media casualties in 56 countries. The safety of media persons is particularly at risk across the world as they have to continue providing information from the ground. We offer condolences to families of the all deceased scribes,” said Blaise Lempen, general-secretary of Press Emblem Campaign (www.pressemblem.ch), an international media rights body based in Geneva.
Days back, a rural reporter along with his wife was killed in Sonbhadra locality of Uttar Pradesh (UP) on 16 November. Uday Paswan, who was associated with a Lucknow-based Hindi daily died on the spot, where his wife Sheetla Paswan succumbed to injuries next day in the hospital. Earlier another UP scribe Suraj Pandey (25) was found dead on a railway track at Sadar Kotwali area on 12 November. His family members in Unnao locality claimed that the Hindi newspaper reporter was murdered.
Assam’s Kakopathar based television journalist Parag Bhuyan (55) died in a mysterious road accident on November 11 night. The police have already arrested two persons in connection with the incident. The State government in Dispur has already ordered a CID probe into the incident and the police have seized the vehicle (AS 23 BC 7881) that hit Bhuyan and arrested its driver and handyman from Namsai in neighboring Arunachal Pradesh. 
As the year approaches the end, India turns out to be an unsafe country for professional journalists after Mexico only
Bhopal-based television reporter Syed Adil Wahab (35) was found murdered at a forest area on 8 November. Wahab, who used to work for a Hindi news channel of Madhya Pradesh (MP), went missing since the previous day and later his severely injured body was recovered next day by the police. Tamil television scribe Isravel Moses (27) was hacked to death by a group of anti-social elements in Kancheepuram on the same day. Moses succumbed to injuries on way to the hospital.  
Satellite channel Sahara Samay’s reporter Ratan Singh (45) based in Ballia (UP) was shot dead by his neighbours to settle their old property disputes on August 24. Assam’s Tinsukia based television scribe Bijendeep Tanti (32) was found murdered on August 8 at his rented office. MP’s Niwari based journalist Sunil Tiwari (35) was shot dead on July 22. Same day, UP journalist Vikram Joshi (45) succumbed to injuries in the hospital who was attacked on July 20 by a group of goons.
AP’s digital channel reporter Ganta Naveen (27) was murdered at Nandigama locality on June 29. UP’s Unnao locality witnessed a brutal murder of brave reporter Shubham Mani Tripathi (25) on June 19. A born patriot who worked for Kanpur-based Hindi daily KampuMail fell prey to bullets of shooters. He reported on illegal sand mining practices to only invite enmity from criminals which finally turned fatal. Earlier, an Oriya portal reporter Aditya Kumar Ransingh (40) was killed in Banki locality on February 16.
The largest democracy in the world now emerges as the second most dangerous country (after Mexico with 12 confirmed journo-killings till date this year) for working journalists. India witnessed nine incidents of journo-killing last year (75 around the world in 2019), but only one incident could emerge as a case of targeted murder. K Satyanarayana (45) of Andhra Jyothy faced the fate because of his activities as a journalist. He was hacked to death on 15 October.
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*Northeast India based journalist, country representative to Press Emblem Campaign, Geneva

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