A pattern is emerging in recent times in the manner in which journalists are being targeted in the country. Those at the receiving end are mostly from small towns, and sometimes not associated with any media organisation, but are carrying out investigative journalism at a personal level.
Soon after a journalist was burnt to death in Shahjahanpur, UP, allegedly at the behest of a minister, the body of a journalist from Balaghat, MP, was found in Maharashtra. While the police in UP are saying that the journalist, Jagendra Singh, burnt himself to escape arrest in a murder case, and have not made any arrests so far, in MP two persons have been caught even as the police are putting it down to ‘personal enmity’. Meanwhile, a photojournalist was also assaulted in Jharkhand.
The killing of media persons is on the rise in India over the last five years.
In 2010, Sushil Pathak of Dainik Bhaskar was killed in Chhattisgarh, followed by the murder of Umesh Rajput of Nai Dunia in 2011. In 2012, a freelance journalist Chandrika Rai was killed in MP.
Investigations into all these cases have been pitiably tardy and no conviction has taken place so far. The law-enforcing agencies often give multiple explanations for the cases instead of investigating and bringing them to their logical conclusion.
It is nobody’s case that journalists deserve more protection from the state than other citizens, but if a journalist faces threats from some quarters during the course of his or her job, the State must provide security. It is appreciable that Jagendra Singh’s family was compensated by the State, but the killers must be brought to book.
At a meeting on press freedom in New Delhi on Wednesday, senior journalists suggested that pressure must be created on the authorities to ensure that whenever a journalist is threatened, an FIR is filed immediately; and two, journalists’ associations/the Press Council of India must create an independent social security mechanism to provide insurance cover to journalists.
With some 79 journalist deaths reported in the past 25 years, the press watchdog must send out teams to look into the cases and engage with the state governments concerned.