The Editors Guild of India on November 19 expressed serious concern over the growing incidents of violence against journalists in Assam.
In a letter to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) expressed deep concern over the growing incidents of violence against journalists vitiating the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media.
“While we appreciate your firm condemnation of these incidents, the situation demands your urgent intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia. In the absence of that, a sense of impunity could embolden the attackers who may believe that they are above the law,” said the letter signed by Editors Guild of India president Seema Mustafa, general secretary Sanjay Kapoor and treasurer Anant Nath.
The two-page letter to the Assam CM said that the manner in which Milan Mahanta (42), who writes for Asomiya Pratidin and Dainik Asom, was recently tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly, is a testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam.
A video of the assault has gone viral on social media.
Mahanta, who has named the assailants, claimed that he was beaten up for his reportage against the gambling and land mafias in Kamrup district.
The incident came close on the heels of the death of Parag Bhuyan, a journalist with Pratidin Time, who was overrun by a car near his home in Kakopathar in Tinsukia district. The Pratidin Time editor has alleged that Bhuyan was murdered as he had been receiving threats for exposing corruption and illegal activities of a criminal nexus in the Kakopathar area.
The Editors Guild of India also appreciated the state government’s efforts for providing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1991.
“However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations. In many cases, the culprits are roaming free, intimidating the families of the slain journalists. We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear,” the EGI said in its letter.
On November 17, senior journalist Patricia Mukhim, who is also the editor of The Shillong Times, has quit the Editors Guild of India for not speaking up on her case and alleging that the journalists’ body only “defends celebrity journalists”.
Mukhim claimed that she had briefed the top journalists’ body in detail about her case. “I now wish to resign from its membership. There are several reasons for doing so. First, as a journalist, I don’t belong to that august league of celebrity editors whose newspapers are widely-read and web-based news portals are hugely popular,” she said in her letter.