By Nava Thakuria
Indian subcontinent as a whole today stands at an awkward position over the journo-murder index, as the populous zone witnessed the murder of over ten journalists in the first half of 2017. India and Pakistan contributed seven professional journalists to the list of victims in the last six months, where Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives add one casualty each.
The year started with sad news for India as the dead body of a Jharkhand based scribe was recovered on Hazaribag locality in the first week itself. Hari Prakash, 31, whose body was found on 2 January on a roadside, was missing for some days. The family members of Hari, who was a law graduate and used to work for a Hindi daily, alleged that he was kidnapped by the miscreants to finally kill the reporter.
Another bad news was waiting for the media families as a Bihar based journalist was shot dead at Samastipur locality on 3 January by some unidentified goons. Brajesh Kumar Singh, 28, received serious injuries on his head and died on the spot. It was the third assassination of journalists in Bihar within a year after Rajdeo Ranjan and Dharmendra Kumar Singh killed last year.
The third and fourth incidents involving the murder of working journalists were reported from Madhya Pradesh. Shyam Sharma, 40, who was engaged with a local evening newspaper was stabbed to death by miscreants at Anshul locality of Indore on 15 May. Shyam received multiple injuries and died on the spot. Meanwhile, the local police have arrested two individuals suspecting their primary role in the murder case.
On the other hand, Kamlesh Jain, 42, was shot dead in his office at Pipliyamandi locality of Mandsaur on the evening of 31 May. Kamlesh was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the attending doctors declared him brought dead. According to the police on duty, two miscreants entered into Kamlesh’s office and one of them shot him. The culprits quickly fled from the location with their motorcycle.
Engaged with a Hindi daily (Nai Dunia), the journalist lately exposed few local people involved in illegal liquor trades through a number roadside Dhabas (restaurants). He was also threatened by those criminals with dire consequences few days back. The police as usual took prompt actions and arrested two individuals suspecting their role in the crime.
Various scribe’s bodies from Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh along with Journalists’ Forum Assam, Indian Journalists Union, National Federation of Newspaper Employees, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) etc expressed serious concern over the murder of the journalists and asked the responsible authorities to book the culprits under the law of the land.
Condemning the assassinations of Shyam and Kamlesh, the IFJ commented ‘two murders in nearly two weeks illustrate the dangerous conditions that journalists in India are facing’. The global media forum called on Indian authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate these murders and bring those responsible to justice.
In a recent statement, the IFJ disclosed that 93 journalists were killed last year around the world, where India contributed 6 victims to the list. Iraq witnessed the highest number of journo-killings (15), followed by Afghanistan (13), Mexico (11), Yemen (8), Guatemala, Syria, India (all 6), Pakistan (5) etc, added the forum representing over 6,00,000 journalists in 140 countries.
Pakistan lost three professional journalists and a media student to assailants in the last six months. Muhammad Jan, who was working for an Urdu newspaper in Baluchistan province, faced bullets from miscreants on 12 January and died later. Later a television reporter Abdul Razzaque was gunned down by miscreants on 17 May in Punjab province and lately another news channel scribe Bakshish Ellahi was shot dead by unknown gunmen on 11 June in Peshawar. Meanwhile, a student of journalism (Mashal Khan) fell prey to an angry mob in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 22 April over the alleged blasphemy charge against him.
The CPJ called on Pakistani authorities to investigate all the killings related to media persons and book the culprits urgently. The New York based media rights body also expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan, where four media workers namely Mohamad Amir Khan, Zinullah Khan, Abdul Latif and Ghani were killed in a suicide attack on 17 May at Jalalabad locality. Later two more media persons namely Mohammed Nazir and Aziz Navin died in a Kabul blast on 31 May.
Infamous for many atheist bloggers’ killings, Bangladesh witnessed the murder of one rural reporter at Sirajganj locality. Abdul Hakim Shimul, who used to work for Dainik Samakal, was shot dead on 2 February, when he was covering the clashes between two factions of the ruling party (Awami League). Bangladesh Manobadhikaar Sangbadik Forum strongly condemned the assassination, which was first in 2017.
Relatively peaceful Myanmar (also known as Burma or Brahmadesh) reported one murder in the first half of 2017. Wai Yan Heinn, 27, a Rangoon based weekly editor was killed on 16 April. The reason behind the attack on the scribe was however yet to be confirmed for his journalistic works. Besides local media units, the RSF urged the Myanmar authorities to identify and bring the culprits to justice at the earliest.
Mentioning about a last year’s case (killing of Soe Moe Tun on 13 December 2016 reportedly for exposing illegal loggings in his locality), the Paris based media rights body expressed resentments that the concerned investigation had gone slow. Benjamin Ismaïl, the former head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, recently commented that Soe’s family was still waiting for justice, but in vein.
Tiny nation like Maldives drew the attention of international media recently with the sensational murder of a prominent journalist and human rights defender. Yameen Rasheed, 29, who remained an outspoken critic of corruption & human rights violations in the island nation, was stabbed to death by miscreants on 23 April in the capital Malé and thus putting the small country in the list of risky nations with growing intolerance toward free information flow.
India’s other neighbors including Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet (under China) etc have not reported any incident of journo-killings in the last six months. In contrast, the land of Mahatma-Buddha has emerged as one of the worst places for working journalists, where they are attacked deliberately and justices were rarely delivered to their bereaved families.
(Nava Thakuria is a senior journalist based in Guwahati, Assam.)