The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked at the
explicit death threats made to three journalists based in the southern district
of Dantewada in India's Chhattisgarh state, by a vigilante group believed to be
part of a covert operation to combat a long-running Maoist insurgency.
IFJ sources report that an unsigned letter issued in the name of the
Adivasi Swabhimaani Manch (which loosely translates as "Forum for Advancement
of the Indigenous Communities") was circulated on December 11, which sharply
attacks the Maoist insurgents for the havoc they have caused to civic life in
Chhattisgarh. The letter warmly commends a police official who took charge in
the district of Dantewada some months back for the firmness of his resolve in
combating the Maoists. It then proceeds to identify three local journalists by
name and warn them that they cannot live for long "under the garb of human
rights" and would meet a "dog's death" if they did not leave the region.
The journalists mentioned are N.R.K. Pillay, vice-president of the
state-wide union of working journalists, the Chhattisgarh Shramjeevi Patrakar
Sangh (CSPS), Anil Mishra, former district correspondent of the Hindi language
daily Nai Duniya, and Yashwant Yadav of Deshbandhu, a widely-read
and respected Hindi daily in the state.
Initial complaints by the targeted journalists with local police
officials were reportedly met with indifference. On December 12, an audio
report on the death threats issued against the three journalists was posted by
the web-based citizen journalism portal, CGNet Swara. Mangal Kunjam, the
young reporter who phoned in with the story to the news portal, was reportedly
called into the Kirandul police station in Dantewada district subsequenly and
warned of serious consequences.
The IFJ learns that the CSPS has taken up this matter with the local
authorities and also sent a delegation to the state government to make a case
for serious investigations into the death threat.
"We call for an explicit condemnation of this threat to press freedom and
the safety of journalists by civil and police officials at the local and state
level", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
"We see these recent events as a part of a broader attack on civil
liberties in Chhattisgarh state and a symptom of growing intolerance towards
civil society actors and human rights defenders."
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
Find the IFJ
on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific