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Farewell to 'terrible' 2020: 15 journalists murdered, 50 died of Covid in India

By Nava Thakuria*

Indian media fraternity sets to bid farewell to the Covid-19 pandemic year 2020 with the horrible statistics of journo-killings with some dangerous countries for working journalists in the world. The largest democracy in the globe witnessed killings of 15 scribes till the last week of December and the populous country also lost over 50 working journalists to novel coronavirus infection aggravated ailments.
India along with Mexico emerged as the hazardous places for scribe this year as the global tally of media-victims to assailants reaches to 92 in 31 countries, said Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), the Geneva-based media watchdog in its recent reports. Mexico, as it routinely observes journo-murders for several years, witnessed the killings of 12 scribes in 2020 followed by Pakistan (8 dead), Afghanistan (7), Iraq and Honduras (5 each), etc.
It also added that the Philippines and Syria witnessed murders of four scribes each, followed by Nigeria & Venezuela (three scribes each), Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Liberia, Somalia, (two each), Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Russia, Argentina, Cameroon, Ecuador, Mozambique, Paraguay, Sweden, Barbados, etc (one each).
“Fewer journalists have died in areas of armed conflict this year, but too many of them have been targeted for their works in peaceful countries,” commented Blaise Lempen, general secretary of PEC reiterating the forum’s stand for condemnations against those incidents of scribe-killings and consistent demands to punish the culprits under the law.
More than 590 journalists have died of Covid-19 complications in 57 countries, where most affected countries include Peru (93 casualties), India (53), Brazil (51), Mexico (44), Ecuador (42), Bangladesh (41), Italy (34), USA (31), Pakistan (22), Turkey (17), UK (12), etc and thus a single year snatched away the lives of over 600 journalists with the pandemic and violence, stated Lempen adding that it is the worst statistics since the Second World War.
India witnessed the latest killing of a video journalist in Rajasthan as Abhishek Soni (27), who succumbed to injuries because of attacks by three assailants. Soni, who used to work for a local news channel, went to a roadside eatery along with a women media employee on December 8 evening. As they were waiting the assailants started starring at her. When Soni resisted them, it ended up in hot debates and physical attacked by them. Finally Soni died in a Jaipur hospital on December 23.
Earlier, a Malayalam journalist lost his life in a hit and run incident on December 14 evening inside Thiruvananthapuram city. SV Pradeep (43), who remained critical over the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Kerala, worked for media outlets like News 18, Jai Hind, Mediaone, Mangalam, Kairali, etc.
Days before, sad news broke from Uttar Pradesh (UP), where journalist Rakesh Singh Nirbhik (35) was found dead along with a friend on 28 November as his house in Balrampur locality was hit by a sudden explosion. Severely injured Rakesh and his friend were taken to the hospital, where both succumbed to burn injuries. Victim families claimed it as a pre-planned murder as Rakesh developed enmities against some locals with his media reports in Rashtriya Swaroop. 
Fewer journalists have died in areas of armed conflict this year, but too many of them have been targeted for their works in peaceful countries
Andhra Pradesh (AP) journalist G Nagaraj (45) was killed by a group of goons at Hanumantha area adjacent to Tamil Nadu. The Telugu reporter was attacked with sharp weapons in full public view on 22 November and he died on his way to the hospital. Nagaraj wrote a series of articles against the real-estate mafia for Tamil newspaper Villangam to invite probable enmities.
UP’s Sonbhadra locality witnessed the murder of rural reporter Uday Paswan along with his wife on 16 November. Associated with a Lucknow-based Hindi daily, Paswan died on the spot as they were attacked by a group of goons. His wife Sheetla Paswan succumbed to injuries next day in the hospital. Another UP scribe Suraj Pandey (25) was found dead on a railway track at Sadar Kotwal area on November 12. His family members in Unnao locality claimed that the Hindi reporter was murdered.
Bhopal based television reporter Syed Adil Wahab (35) was found murdered at a forest area on  November 8. Wahab, who used to work for a Hindi news channel went missing since the previous day and later his injured body was recovered 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.
Assam’s Kakopathar based television journalist Parag Bhuyan (55) died in a mysterious road accident on 11 November night. The government also already ordered a CID probe into the incident and the police have seized the vehicle that hit Bhuyan and arrested its driver & handyman. Another UP journalist Ratan Singh (45), who worked for satellite news channel Sahara Samay was shot dead by his neighbours in Ballia locality on August 24. Tinsukia based Assamese television scribe Bijendeep Tanti (32) was found murdered on August 8 at his rented office.
Weeks back, Madhya Pradesh journalist Sunil Tiwari (35), who worked for a Gwalior-based Hindi newspaper was beaten, stabbed and shot to death in Niwari locality on July 22. Same day, UP journalist Vikram Joshi (45) succumbed to injuries in the hospital who was attacked on 20 July by some local goons. Another AP journalist named Ganta Naveen (27) was murdered at Nandigama locality on 29 June. The digital channel reporter developed enmity with some influential persons in his locality and they are suspected to organize the crime.
The brutal murder of UP’s young and brave reporter Shubham Mani Tripathi shocked the media fraternity. Shubham (25) continued reporting against illegal sand miners to Kanpur-based Hindi daily Kampu Mail even after receiving death-threats from the criminals. He was shot dead in Unnao locality on June 19 by two shooters. Orissa’s portal reporter Aditya Kumar Ransingh (40) was killed on 16 February in Banki locality.
Last year, India witnessed nine incidents of journo-killings, but only one case emerged as a targeted murder for works as journalist. K Satyanarayana (45) of Andhra Jyothy was hacked to death on 15 October. Local scribes informed Satyanarayana was targeted in earlier too. Others who were killed last year include Jobanpreet Singh, Vijay Gupta, Radheyshyam Sharma, Ashish Dhiman, Chakresh Jain, Anand Narayan and Nityanand Pandey. Kerala scribe K Muhammed Basheer was mowed down by a vehicle.
Various local, regional and national journo-bodies in India along with a number of international media rights bodies like the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters sans/without Borders, International Federation of Journalists, besides PEC, have denounced the murders of scribes and demanded the concerned governments to book the assailants under the law ensuring justice to the victim-families.
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*The author is a northeast India based journalist and country contributor to PEC

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