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Why Journalists In Manipur Need To Cease Work Time And Again

JOURNALISTS UNDER SIEGE: The Indian government and its satellites in the state have continually built up a situation where the people have little else to look forward to every morning apart from their daily newspaper reads. Image Credit: Doren Oinam via Demotix

No journalist worth his or her salt can ever want to see a day without one’s paper. But journalists in Manipur, time and again, are pushed so much against the wall, that they are left with no other choice. It’s happened once again in the state ‘” this time, it signaling a wrong start to the New Year. Newspapers failed to hit the stands on January 1, and as reports last came in, the stand of the beleaguered scribes has failed to make any impression on the callous rulers of the state.

Journalists in Manipur have resorted to this extreme form of protest a number of times in the recent past, but by and large those were against either threats or killings by some militant organizations who see the media as a soft target. Unfortunately, journalists remain a soft target, and this time ironically it is the State who is gunning for them.

For those not in the know of things, since these incidents or protests do not make big and bold headlines in mainland India, the latest protest is over the arrest of a senior journalist on his alleged links with a militant organization. A Mobi, editor of the daily Sanaleibak, was arrested on December 29. The Superintendent of Police, of Imphal West district, has contended that Mobi was an activist of the banned Kangleipak Communist Party (Tabungba group). The police have registered a case under Section 17/20 UA (P) A and claimed to have seized two mobile phones, a scooter and Rs 50,000 in cash from his possession.

The All-Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) has described the charges as fabricated. Mobi, incidentally, is an office bearer of the union. The AMWJU has said that Mobi being the vice-president and spokesman of the union, was authorized to settle a number of stands-offs between the media and militants in Manipur following the government’s failure to provide a secure environment for media personnel and property in the state. Such stand-offs are too frequent for one’s comfort.

It is also a veritable fact that the government has failed to provide this safe and secure environment. Or else, journalists would time and again not have to push matters to a head where newspapers fail to hit the stands in the mornings. The Indian government and its satellites in the state have continually built up a situation where the people have little else to look forward to every morning apart from their daily newspaper reads.

The arrest of Mobi is rubbing salt into deep wounds. The shameless state government can not only not end militancy, various dispensations have a number of times in the past instead targeted the media. The accusations have usually centered around publishing of news items emanating from banned militant organizations. An intolerant and bull-headed government always believes in shooting the messenger.

The messengers in question lead a very difficult life, forever being made to skate on thin ice. You never know what will create trouble for you. You never know who’s taking an aim at you.

Mobi, you will not believe it, was picked up by police commandos who came to meet him disguised as KCP militants. He was subsequently held on charges of being in cahoots with the organization. In conflict situations, journalists almost always know underground elements. And if you know how small Manipur is and how difficult it is for a journalist to work, you will know that you cannot escape knowing militants. What makes the charge all the more dubious is that the outfit in question has an ongoing truce with the Indian government. Some has an axe to grind here.

What makes it a depressing situation is an understanding of the impunity that prevails.

The AMWJU has submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh, dispatched one to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and also marked a copy to the Editors Guild. If you have heard nothing yet, it is probably because no one in mainland India has screamed “outrage” yet.

*The article is published by Subir Ghosh.

*You can read the original article here



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