Attack on Democracy - May 24, 2016

Recent threats and intimidation of journalists in Chhattisgarh is a matter of concern. There have been many instances of clashes in Bastar, an area dominated by Naxalites, between the security forces and the Maoists. The journalists are caught in the middle with both the parties attacking them. There are many incidences of attack on journalists in the past few years. At present, three journalists are in jail on the charges of extortion and many have been threatened and intimidated. Many journalists had to leave the state for the fear of their lives. The story of the long struggle of Ms. Malini Subramaniam, contributor to, to challenge the misuse of authority by the government has been widely discussed. The fact-finding team, consisting of Editors Guild of India general secretary Prakash Dubey and executive committee member, Vinod Verma, which visited Chhattisgarh for two weeks, concluded that the media in Chhattisgarh were working under tremendous pressure. According to the committee, there is a pressure from the police on journalists to write what they want. There is a perception that all journalists are under government scanner and as a result, journalists hesitate to discuss anything over the phone because they fear police listen everything they speak. The organization Patrakar Suraksha Kanoon Samyukta Sangharsh Samiti held a demonstration on 10th May at Jantar Mantar to protest the ill-treatment meted out to journalists. It claimed that the police are implicating the journalists in false cases. The BJP government in the state and Bastar police are increasingly being criticized for alleged high-handedness.

It is really unfortunate that journalists are not being allowed to perform their duties. The freedom of press is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy because the press provides information necessary to build public opinion and to keep check on authority. It is commendable that many journalists have been trying to defy the culture of fear and to continue with their job. It shows the integrity and toughness of journalists who have to work in adverse conditions. There is no doubt that the attack on the press from non-state and state actors is going to have long-term impact as it is affecting the morale of the people involved. There is an urgent need for the state government to take action and restore the faith of journalists in the system.

- Prof. Kalpana Dixit

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