Imphal and the rest of Manipur woke up on Monday morning to find their newspapers missing. Under a new threat from an obscure,breakaway armed group,hawkers stopped distributing newspapers. After a meeting on September 1,the All Manipur Newspaper Sales and Distributors Association decided to suspend distribution till the stand-off is resolved.
In an Editors Guild meeting,all major newspapers in Manipur decided to stop publishing for two days. The stand-off began with a driver,Gyanendro,found dead. The underground group claimed responsibility. We dont believe the death was caused by an underground group. This group is not well-known…it is a break-off group trying to get recognition…, says Editor,The Sangai Express,Rajesh Hijam.
The Editors Guild decided earlier that we will not entertain small factions…This group wanted us to publish their statement claiming responsibility. We refused… As soon as we print their names,they gain a certain legitimacy and credibility and once that is established,they start their activities which involve extortion…, says Hijam.
General Secretary of All Manipur Newspaper Sales and Distributors Association P Dhruva says hawkers received the threat on August 28. They sent us a letter saying they are giving us a deadline of August 31. We ignored the threat. On September 1,they called us. The man who called said… if you dont stop supplying papers immediately,we will shoot you and the others, says Dhruva. Why are we being dragged into a dispute between journalists and UG groups? We are not responsible… They should take it up with the Editors, says Dhruva.
The All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) approached Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh as well as Home Minister G Gaikhagnam. TV journalist BM Sunzu says the CM has assured security to distributors and newspaper houses in Imphal.
AMWJU executive member and senior journalist with Imphal Free Press,Paojel Chaoba,says,The main problem is factionalism between insurgent groups. One group will tell us to publish their statement and the rival will tell us if we do then we will have to face dire consequences. In the past,editors have been threatened and so have journalists. A grenade was lobbed inside former AMWJU presidents home last year and an IED was sent to a major media house a couple of years ago.
Major insurgent groups have asked Editors to not publish statements from breakaway factions.
Hijam says groups are changing strategy. But this is the first time they have threatened hawkers…