March 30, 2016 2:54:40 am
A fact-finding report submitted by the Editors Guild of India on threats to journalists in Bastar, in the wake of recent arrests of journalists, has said that the region is fast becoming a conflict zone and journalists “are under attack by both state and non-state actors”.
During their visit to the state between March 13 and 15, a team from the guild met journalists who were arrested and allegedly harassed, senior police officials and Chief Minister Raman Singh.
The report said, “The fact-finding team came to the conclusion that the media reports of threats to journalists are true. The media in Chhattisgarh is working under tremendous pressure… There is pressure from the state administration, especially the police, on journalists to write what they want or not to publish reports that the administration sees as hostile. There is pressure from Maoists as well on the journalists working in the area. There is a general perception that every single journalist is under the government scanner and all their activities are under surveillance. They hesitate to discuss anything over the phone because, as they say, ‘the police is listening to every word we speak’.”
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The report added that “government officials categorically denied these charges”, with Principal Secretary (Home) B V K Subrahmanyam saying, “I can say this with authority that no government department has been authorised to tap phone calls of any of the journalists.”
Among the conclusions drawn by the guild team was a growing concern for local journalists, often stringers, who work in inhospitable conditions. “Newspapers and other media houses are appointing journalists as stringers in remote areas without any formalities… So when the question of identity arises, the government conveniently denies that someone is/was a journalist. Media houses also disown them because they see them as liability beyond a point,” the report said.
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