The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and the National Union of Journalists, India (NUJI) in condemning the directive made to editors of six Nagaland-based media houses in northern India by a Colonel of the General Staff for Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, on October 25. The IFJ believes the directive stifles press freedom and urges that it be immediately withdrawn.
The directive issued by the Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force in India, bans the re-publication of press statements from the banned organization, NSCN(K). The directive said that ‘publication of press statements of a banned organization was complicit in the illegal activities of the banned organization.’ The diktat went on to request that the Nagaland state government take action against any newspapers that do not follow the order, saying ‘any article which projects the demands of NSCN(K) and gives it publicity is a violation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and should not be published by your newspaper’.
Responding to the notification, the editors stated that ‘the role of the media in an environment of conflict is a critical component in the search for peace and justice.’ They also said that they were guided by a free, fair, forthright, sensitive and unbiased approach in the reports while fulfilling their roles against the backdrop of Naga history and reality.
The joint statement stated: “By implying that the Nagaland-based media is supporting a particular banned organization, the Assam Rifles is jeopardizing the personal safety and well being of the editors and the media fraternity in Nagaland.“
It further added: “The media in Nagaland has remained non-partisan, impartial and independent by upholding indigenous and internationally accepted values of non-violence, democracy and peace. With the print media being the primary means of mass-communication in Nagaland, we have carefully and diligently ensured that the editorial process – individually and collectively – acts responsibly, without prejudice, and is guided by universally recognized standards and ethical norms of journalism. We seek to make critical editorial decisions in ways that encourage healthy, peaceful and constructive engagement.”
On November 16, National Press Day in India, four daily newspapers in Nagaland carried blank editorials to protest against the directive.
The IJU has protested against the notice to editors last week and is taking up the matter with the Press Council of India.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ condemns the directive issued by the Assam Rifles against Nagaland’s local media. The paramilitary force has no right to directly communicate with the editors regarding the content and coverage of the media. The IFJ demands the immediate withdrawal of the directive.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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