As the year 2020 rolls on, Pakistan reported the first murder of journalists in the Indian subcontinent. All other countries in the subcontinent have evaded killing of any scribes in the last two months. Around the globe at least nine journalists have been killed till date this year on the line of their duties, where the highest number of casualties is reported from Iraq (3) followed by Syria (2), Pakistan (1), Somalia (1), Nigeria (1) and Paraguay (1). Contrary to it, the vast (also populous) country India witnessed only one casualty last year improving in its journo-murder index where 49 scribes lost their lives on the duty hours around the world. Except Pakistan and Bangladesh, India’s other neighbours namely Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tibet (under China), and Bhutan could evade any incident of scribe’s murder during 2019.
Pakistan reported the mysterious death of Aziz Memon in Mehrabpur locality of Sindh province on 16 February. Memon used to work for the privately-owned KTN television and Sindhi-language daily Kawish. Threatened by local politicians last year for his media reporting, Memon was found dead in an irrigation channel near to his residence. Last year, 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.
According to 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
India as a whole witnessed the incidents of nine journo-killings in 2019, but only 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 15 October. 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 firings on 19 December), Vijay Gupta (Kanpur-based scribe shot dead by close relatives on 29 October), Radheyshyam Sharma (Kushinagar-based journalist murdered by his neighbours on 10 October), Ashish Dhiman (Saharanpur-based photojournalist shot dead along with his brother by neighbours on 18 August), Chakresh Jain (Shahgarh-based freelance journalist died of serious burn injuries on 19 June), Anand Narayan (news channel contributor of Mumbai murdered by miscreants on 4 June), Nityanand Pandey (magazine editor in Thane killed by an employee on 17 March).
Kerala-based journalist K Muhammed Basheer lost his life on 3 August as a government officer driven vehicle mowed down him. Bihar’s scribe Pradeep Mandal was targeted by miscreants on 28 July, 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. Guwahati-based scribe named Naresh Mitra died on 9 December 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 in 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 the 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 in 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 reported killing 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 Indian scribes with 11 casualties including three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) from Tripura.
Various national and international media rights bodies including Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), 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.
(The author is a northeast India based media activist)
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