Saturday, February 02, 2008

First Program of Young Journalist League

The recent arrest of some senior journalists has raised alarm among the journalist fraternity. To name a few, Prashant Rahi from Uttarakhand , Ujjwal from Chattisgarh, Srisailum from Andhra Pradesh and P. Govindan Kutti (People's March) from Kerala are some instances which reveal the Indian state's disrespect towards the freedom of expression guaranteed in our constitution under Article 19(A). It is alarming that Govindan Kutty, has been on a hunger strike since December 19, 2007 and is being force fed by tying his hand and feet. His crime was that he had been editing and printing People’s March for the last 8 years. Overnight using the draconian law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act the journal has been proscribed without gazette notification and without giving him an opportunity to defend himself.

The common thread which runs through all these recent arrests is the charge that these journalists are either sympathisers or working for the Maoist insurgents. This is the same charge leveled against Dr Binayak Sen of PUCL, Chattisgarh. All of them were proceeded against despite the fact that they were engaged in legitimate work. Indeed the Indian State is attempting to abridge our right of expression and curb our right of dissent by also prohibiting and seizing books and periodicals as evident from the attack on Sunita of Daanish Books in Nagpur in 2006 and filing of a chargesheet against her under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The intrepidness of Indian journalists often leads to reprisals. At least 65 reporters were assaulted or received death threats from police officers, criminals, company heads or political militants during the year.
Two journalists were murdered while doing their job during 2006. Prahlad Goala, working on a regional daily in Assam State in the north-east, was killed after writing articles exposing nepotism on the part of a local official. Also, in the north-east, a bureau chief escaped a murder attempt by an armed group. A young correspondent for a regional newspaper in Maharashtra State, central India, Arun Narayan Dekate, was stoned to death by gangsters he had named in his articles.

The authorities in Chhattisgarh State, have curtailed press freedom in order to carry out their ‘dirty war’ against the Maoists. The Chattisgarh Public Security Act provides for imprisonment, from one to three years, for journalists who meet Maoist rebels or write anything which the authorities claim supports the Maoists. A score of reporters have been assaulted or threatened with death by police officers or members of the local Salwa Judum militia. At least two correspondents of the daily Hind Sat were forced to give up their work for fear of reprisals. Hardly any news flows out of the area without it being censored.

In June, Shujaat Bukhari, correspondent in Kashmir for the national daily The Hindu, escaped a murder attempt by armed men. Indians security services have also been implicated in attacks against the press, as in the assault, in September, on three reporters, who were beaten by police officers in the streets of Srinagar. In November Abdul Rouf, of the Srinagar News, and his wife Zeenat Rouf, were arrested. Photojournalist, Muhammad Maqbool Khokar has been held since September 2004, under Public Security Act. Despite calls for his release by the judiciary as well as from the National Human Rights Commission, police have refused to release him.

Karnataka government had arrested unlawfully, the editor of karavali ale , a kannada eveninger of coastal Karnataka and his wife on night of March 3rd, 2006. State government and sangh parivaar working hand in glove as evident from the fact that their press and residence were attacked by sangh parivaar who damaged the printing and other property.

More recently, in Karnataka police arrested Indian Journalist Union (IJU) national council member and former president of Warangal Working Journalist Union Pendyala Venkata Kondal Rao, charging him with being a sympathiser of the outlawed Maoists.

These acts are against the principles natural justice and violate freedom of expression and right to information. .

It is to highlight all this and to draw people’s attention to the curbing of our legitimate rights that we call upon all the concerned individuals including journalists, writers and activists from all walks of life to join us in a protest meeting against the repressive moves of the Indian state to curb voices of dissent.

We invite you to a public meeting on February 11, 2008 at the Press Club of India at 3.30 pm to oppose this draconian trend and to collectively decide the future course of action.

Oppose assault on freedom of expression! Defend the Right of Dissent!


(On behalf of Young Journalists League)

Contact Address: #29, LGF, NRI Complex, GK IV, New Delhi 110019