Armed attack on Arunachal journalist is part of a trend

“An attack on the media in Arunachal Pradesh? Oh,that is just normal.”

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati | Published: July 17, 2012 12:13 am

“An attack on the media in Arunachal Pradesh? Oh,that is just normal.”

This is how V Ravindran,associate editor of Dawnlit Post,one of the five dailies published from Itanagar,has described the latest attack on a journalist in the frontier state.

An unidentified attacker on Sunday shot at Tongam Rina,associate editor of Arunachal Times,with the bullet piercing her back and touching her spinal chord. It took a major surgery at R K Mission Hospital at Itanagar to remove the bullet. She has now been declared out of danger but remains under observation.

Ravindran,who has 25 years of journalism behind him in Arunachal Pradesh and is the senior-most in the fraternity there,has himself been attacked at least three times,the last occasion being in 2009. “I keep receiving threats over the phone pretty often. And if you ask this question to any other journalist here,the answer will be the same,” he said.

This is not the first time Rina has been targeted either. She was assaulted only on April 15,when a group of 10 masked men went on a rampage in her office,damaging six computers. This time,the police have neither been able to identify the attacker nor found a motive.

Tongam Rina’s newspaper,Arunachal Times,is owned by the family of former chief minister Gegong Apang. Of the five newspapers in Itanagar,only one does not have an owner who has not been involved in politics. The exception is Echo of Arunachal,the oldest newspaper,which was founded by scholar Lummer Dai and which is now run by his widow Nani Dai.

Of the other three newspapers,Arunachal Front is said to be owned by persons close to present chief minister Nabam Tuki,Arunachal Sentinel is owned by a younger brother of former chief minister Jarbom Gamlin,and Dawnlit Post’s owner Gabriel Wangchu once contested an election,which he lost. “That was Gabriel’s first and last brush with politics,” said Ravindran.

Some journalists feel they are attacked without a motive. “You don’t need a reason to attack a journalist or a newspaper office in Itanagar,” said Tumter Riba,photo-journalist and general secretary of Arunachal Press Club. “Most of the time as we don’t know who the people are. The police too fail to identify the culprits,let alone arrest them,” she said.

Ravindran,however,tries to classify the reasons behind the repeated attacks. “Any group will come and beat you up and vandalise your office if your newspaper fails to publish their press release ad verbatim. A second reason is,if you carry one group’s press release,then another group will come and object,in the process breaking your computers as well as your head,” said Ravindran,who has a permanent scar on his forehead after three youths,allegedly led by a former minister’s son,went on the rampage of Dawnlit Post’s office in July 2009.

In December 2010,two women journalists,Appu Gapak and Nyapi Bomjen,of Arunachal Sentinel were assaulted in Itanagar. Again,no one was arrested.

“Nobody,including a section of politicians,tries to understand that newspapers and the media follow some ethics. You can’t carry derogatory and defamatory remarks passed by individuals or organisations just because they have the freedom of speech,” Ravindran says. That political controversies also lead to such attacks became evident in May last year,when groups went on a rampage in the PTI and Arunachal Front offices,damaging costly equipment.

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki has blamed the police for their failure in gathering intelligence. “A woman journalist of a leading daily was shot at in broad daylight. This reflects badly on our intelligence-collection as well as the poor confidence of the people in our security system. It is high time we tightened our belts,” Tuki said at a meeting in the state police headquarters.

UNDER ATTACK

Tongam Rina,Arunachal Times,shot at on Sunday; she had also been assaulted in April,when 10 masked men vandalised her office

V Ravindran,Dawnlit Post,attacked at least 3 times,the last time in 2009

Appu Gapak & Nyapi Bomjen,Arunachal Sentinel,assaulted in December 2010

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