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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

State actors behind hostile steps against scribes, says Delhi-based think-tank

Out of the 194 journalists who faced police action or assault or threats last year, 103 were targeted by State actors and 91 by non-State actors

Pheroze L. Vincent New Delhi Published 28.06.23, 05:57 AM
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State actors have emerged as the principal source of hostile steps against journalists in India in 2022, a Delhi-based think-tank has found.

Out of the 194 journalists who faced police action or assault or threats last year, 103 were targeted by State actors and 91 by non-State actors, including political activists, according to the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG). The figures have been collated from news reports.

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The figures suggest a role reversal of sorts: in 2020, the State and non-State actors were almost locked in a tie although the overall numbers were higher, the same think-tank had found.

In 2020, when Covid had crippled India along with the rest of the world, as many as 226 instances of hostile action against journalists were reported. Out of these, non-State actors accounted for 114 instances and the State-actors snapped at the frontrunners’ heels by targeting 112 journalists.

If the plight of two media houses is also counted, the State actors and non-State share the harassment pie of 228 instances equally.

But in 2022, the State actors clocked a clear lead, accounting for over 53 per cent of the total number of journalists who had been targeted.

Last year, eight journalists died — one was killed for his work and another in a terrorist attack.

The most hazardous places for reporters were Jammu and Kashmir, followed by Telangana, where 48 and 40 journalists were targeted, respectively.

RRAG director Suhas Chakma said in a statement that of the 103 journalists (targeted by State actors in 2022), 70 were arrested/detained; FIRs were registered against 14; four were summoned by police and the Enforcement Directorate (ED); and 15 were allegedly physically attacked, threatened and harassed by public officials/police.

“Telangana reported the highest arrest/detention with 40, followed by Uttar Pradesh (6) and Jammu and Kashmir (4),” the statement said.

The FIRs against the 14 journalists were lodged under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Sections 124-A (sedition), punishment for defamation (Section 500), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups); Section 66-C, Section 67 and Section 69 of the Information Technology Act and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

In 2022, at least four journalists were summoned for questioning — three by police, and Sucheta Dalal of Maharashtra by the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi…. At least 15 journalists were allegedly physically attacked, molested, threatened and harassed by public officials, including police across the country."

“At least three journalists, i.e. Aakash Hussain, Sanna Irshad Mattoo and Rana Ayyub, were stopped by immigration officials from flying abroad.”

The statement said: “One journalist, Subash Kumar Mahto, was killed for his reporting (against mafia groups in Bihar) while the rest were killed for personal enmities, road rage, etc.... A journalist identified as Rohit Biswal, a reporter of the daily Dharitri, was killed in an IED blast triggered by alleged Maoists while performing his official work on February 5.”

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