ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Silencing the Media

Intimidating and physically attacking journalists is a deliberate strategy.

You can silence the press through direct censorship. Or you can try intimidation, even physical violence. In recent days we have witnessed both; the latter in the attacks by a group of lawyers, on two successive days, on journalists covering the Kanhaiya Kumar hearing at Patiala House in Delhi, and the former in Chhattisgarh, where intimidation and arrest of journalists accused of being Maoist sympathisers has become almost routine. While the Delhi incident received nationwide coverage and condemnation, the daily trials of journalists trying to report from Chhattisgarh’s Bastar District often go unnoticed. The attack earlier this month on the home of Malini Subramaniam, a contributor to the news portal Scroll.in, comes as a reminder of the risks that journalists take in the course of their routine work when operating in this state. This week ­Malini Subramaniam and two members of her legal team were forced to leave Bastar after reports appeared linking the Samajik Ekta Manch (which had threatened the reporter) to the state police.

Subramaniam is not the first journalist to have realised the cost of reporting on the many egregious human rights violations that occur in Bastar in the name of fighting the Maoists. Last year, in July and September, two local journalists, Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag, were arrested and accused of being Maoist sympathisers. Yadav was a stringer for Dainik Navbharat and Nag for Rajasthan Patrika. They had filed reports on human rights violations and fake encounters by the security forces. A petition signed by 160 leading journalists to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, emphasised: “Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav’s arrests have contributed to a deep sense of insecurity amongst journalists in the state and a fear that, not just their work, but their own lives, will be in danger if they venture out to do any independent investigation, or stories that are critical of either the security forces or the Maoists.” Despite such efforts, the two journalists remain in jail.

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