Manipur journos surrender accreditation cards

IN Media Freedom | 27/10/2009
Threatened by the chief minister's goons, The All Manipur Working Journalists Union has sent this letter to the prime minister. A hundred journalists also surrendered their accreditation cards to protest being targeted by the state's forces.

A hundred journalists surrendered their accreditation cards on October 27, 2009 to the Director of Information of the Manipur Government man as a mark of protest at being targeted by the state's forces. They said it was safer for them to function as ordinary citizens, since journalists were being targeted. They describe recent incidents in this letter to the Prime Minister, submitted through the Governor.

 

 

Date: 24 October 2009

 

 

To

The Hon'ble Prime Minister of India

New Delhi

 

 

Subject:       In the matter of harassment of journalists by Manipur police and the State

 

 

Hon'ble Sir,

 

We would like to bring to your kind notice the continued harassment of journalists by Manipur police and the state government against the backdrop of the sorry state of affairs in Manipur and state's apathy towards such incidents of harassment.

 

As you understand, Manipur is a conflict zone. And journalists are facing tremendous pressure from both state and non-state actors with little maneuvering space. However, the journalists' community has been responsibly discharging its duty delicately balancing the spirit of the freedom of press with its commitment to the laws of the land and responsibility to the people. We honestly believe, a sane and informed person like your esteemed self would understand the plight of journalists in a conflict zone like Manipur.

 

In the recent past, the state government had been trying to browbeat journalists in Manipur into submission with threats of de-registration and state action compounded by an arrogant state police force, already infamous with widespread allegations of staging numerous fake encounters, the most recent being the July 23, 2009 incident of Imphal Khwairamband Keithel, wherein a young housewife and a former militant were mercilessly killed in an alleged fake encounter.

 

The most recent cases of intimidation of the press are storming of some media houses in Imphal by goons of chief minister Shree Okram Ibobi Singh's home constituency of Thoubal with active support from the state police force on 25 September, 2009; and threatening of two journalists returning home from duty at gun-point on the night of 10 October 2009.

 

On the night of 25 September 2009, ten busloads of supporters of the chief minister escorted by the state police force stormed some prominent media houses and threatened them with dire consequences if they did not publish their version of the statewide  protests against fake encounters.

         

On the night of October 10 2009, two journalists returning home from duty were singled out and waylaid at Bir Tikendrajit Road point of Imphal city by the infamous police commandos. Upon demands for identification, the two journalists produced their identity cards identifying themselves as members of the press. However, they were separated and questioned. One of them was kicked in the butt and threatened to be shot with a cocked gun. The police commandos threatened the journalist that he could always be shot and explained later on that he was killed in an encounter and nobody would care about it.

 

The All Manipur Working Journalists Union Manipur (AMWJU) condemned the incident and demanded prompt action against the errant police commandos. However, the senior superintendent of police of Imphal West district issued a statement against the journalist community with wild allegations of drunken behavior and nexus with the insurgents.

 

Upon which, the All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) convened a special General Body meeting which condemned the police statement and demanded transferring of all the officers in the chain of command of Imphal West District. The meeting also decided to boycott the state Chief Minister and his colleagues including government handouts relating to development, and also not to sit for negotiations with the state government, till some visible action is seen.

 

The boycott began on 13 October 2009. However, the two victim journalists gave their verbal statements to the Chief Minister himself on 16 October 2009, upon his request and assurance of some visible action. Yet, the state government have not taken up any action in this regard, till date.

 

It is worthwhile recalling that, the chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has himself accused the state police of misinforming him about the July 23 incident in Imphal city, in which a passerby Rabina Devi, seven month pregnant and former militant Ch. Sanjit were killed by police commandos in an alleged fake encounter.

 

Yet, the state government is once more playing into the hands of the state police force and putting up a confrontationist attitude towards the journalist community of Manipur. We humbly pray to your esteemed self to prevail upon the state government to punish the errant police commandos and to set into motion corrective measures towards reforming the state police force into a disciplined force.

 

Thank you.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

(S. Hemant)

President, AMWJU

 

Copy to:

1.       His Excellency the Governor of Manipur

 

 

 

 

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