The recent case of Joginder Singh, a freelance journalist from Shahjahanpur, U.P., being burnt to death at the hands of Police, once again highlights the risk that journalists and reporters face in carrying out their duties. The case becomes even more serious as a senior minister in the U.P. government is reportedly involved in ordering the killing. If proven true, this will be yet another case of political power being abused for political or personal reasons.
The unfortunate death of Joginder Singh also highlights the nexus between power wielders and the police, which seems to be a ready participant to please their political masters. This is certainly not the first case, nor will it be the last. Unless the nation wakes up together to reform and strengthen our institutions, like the police and judiciary, such attacks will continue and our basic fundamental right to state protection will remain unfulfilled.
The media is often referred as the fourth pillar of democracy as it plays the vital role of a watchdog. Therefore, any attack on its representatives is an attack on democracy and the right to freedom of expression and information.
Attacks on journalists are common the world over and they continue to remain targets of those having vested interests in the issues they highlight. It is indeed worrying to see that the attacks on members of the media seem to be increasing both in frequency and brutality.
From a long list, here are some media personnel who were attacked and killed in India in the last few years
Jyotirmoy Dey, Mid Day
Died: 11 June, 2011
J Dey was a well-known crime reporter in Mumbai who had also authored two books related to crime and the world of informers. He was shot and killed by attackers when he was driving his motorcycle. Later, investigations revealed the involvement of shooters from the underworld who carried out the killing, at the behest of another crime reporter.
MVN Shankar, Andhra Prabha
Died: 26 November, 2014
Shankar was a senior journalist and was active in exposing the mafia that was deeply involved in adulteration and illegal distribution of kerosene oil and gas meant for the poor. He was attacked with iron rods on his way back from a town in Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh. He later died in hospital.
T K Acharya, Sambad & Kanak TV
Died: 27 May, 2014
Acharya, a journalist with Sambad, also worked with Kanak TV in Odisha. On his way back home from Khallikote, he was attacked by assailants and was found dead with his throat cut and injuries to his chest. Investigations revealed that the owner of local cashew processing unit was behind the killing, as Acharya was in the process of exposing the practice of child labour at the factory. The police also arrested a fellow journalist for being abetting the assault, along with the cashew factory owner.
Sai Reddy, Deshbandhu
Died: 6 December, 2013
Sai Reddy was a senior journalist for the local Hindi daily in Chhattisgarh and covered various issues directly affecting common people. In a state reeling under Maoist insurgency, he often covered stories on their attacks and was thus suspected to be a police informer. The 51-year-old reporter was attacked and stabbed by Maoists as he left Basaguda village in Bijapur District. He later died on the way to hospital.
Rajesh Verma, IBN7
Died: 7 September, 2013
Riots broke out in September between sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities living in Muzzafarnagar in Western U.P. Rajesh Verma was at the site covering the clashes when he was shot dead by unidentified assailants. The clashes saw over 30 persons killed with several arrested for the clashes that were apparently triggered by a false video circulated that showed the lynching of two youths from a particular community.
Rakesh Sharma, Aaj
Died: 23 August, 2013
The 50-year-old reporter was shot dead by unidentified attackers on a motorcycle in Bakewar town in Etawah District of U.P. He had written on illegal gambling activities that have the backing of some politicians. The attack on him was apparently in retaliation.
Narendra Dabholkar, Sadhana
Died: 20 August, 2013
Dabholkar was both a journalist and a social activist fighting blind faith and superstition in society. Living in Pune, he was an active journalist with Sadhana, where he wrote on topics ranging from farmer suicides to the struggle for the cause of Telangana and the Naxalite movement. He founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti which highlighted the need to fight and ban the practice of superstition in India that was often used to exploit gullible people for various purposes. This raised heckles with many.One day, while on his routine morning walk, two motorcycle-borne gunmen shot and killed him.
Some Other Media Personnel Who Came Under Attack and Lost Their Lives
Shivani Bhatnagar, Indian Express 23 Jan 1999; Umesh Rajput, Nai Duniya 22 Feb 2011; Paritosh Pandey, Jansatta Express 14 April 2002; Jagjit Saikia, Amar Asom 20 Nov 2008; Mohammad Muslimuddin, Asomiya Pratidin1 April 2008; Parvaz Mohammad Sultan, News and Features Alliance 31 Jan 2003; Vijay Pratap Singh, Indian Express 20 July 2010; Javed Ahmed Mir, Channel 9 13 Aug 2008; G. Gopinath, Dinakaran 7 May 2007; M. Vinod Kumar, Dinakaran 7 May 2007, K.Muthuralingam, Dinakaran 7 May 2007; Dilip Mohapatra, Aji Kagoj 8 Nov 2004; Chandrika Rai, Navbharat and The Hitavada 18 Feb 2012; A.N. Dekate, Tarun Bharat 10 June 2006; Jitendra Singh, Prabhat Khabar 27 April 2013; Bakshi Tirath Singh, Hind Samachar 27 Feb 1992; Irfan Hussain, Outlook 13 Mar 1999; T.B. Singh, Manipur News 20 Aug 2000; N.A. Lalruhlu, Shan 10 Oct 1999; V. Selvaraj, Nakkeran 31 July 2000; B.N Massom, Hind Samachar 31 Jan 1993; R.S. Biling, Daily Ajit & Azdi Awaz 3 Jan 1992; and Dinesh Pathak, Sandesh 22 May1993.
Analysis of Sectors Covered by the Journalists Who Lost Their Lives
Not surprisingly, 41% of journalists killed were covering politics and 29% were covering corruption. This means, 70% of the total journalist killed were covering either politics or corruption. In most cases, one coincided with the other.
While 24% covered Business and Culture-related issues, 18% were concerned about Human Rights situation. About 15% covered crime. Moreover, 3% lost their lives covering war.
The high percentage of journalists losing their lives while covering politics and corruption, reflects poorly on the law & order situation. Poor rate of prosecution and prolonged delay in trials have only helped those in power to believe that they can remain above the law.
It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that our fourth estate continues to remain safe and protected so that they can carry out their role without fear or favour. The messenger must be protected, at any cost.