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India: Editors Guild of India seeks Safety and protection of working journalists in the state of Assam

19 November

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November 19, 2020

Sh. Sarbananda Sonowal
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Assam
CM Block, Janata Bhawan
Dispur, Assam- 781006

Subject: Safety and protection of working journalists in the state of Assam

Sir,

The Editors Guild of India writes to you with deep concern about the growing incidence of violence against journalists in Assam. They have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation, and threats, which is 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 attackers who may believe that they are above the law.

The manner in which Milan Mahanta, 42, who writes for Asomiya Pratidin and Dainik Asom, was 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 this assault has gone viral on social media. Mahanta, who has named the assailants, claimed that he was beaten up for his reportage against the Kamrup district gambling and land mafias.

This incident comes close on the heels of the death of Parag Bhuyam, a journalist with Pratidin Time, who was overrun by a car near his home in Kakopathar. The Pratidin Time editor has alleged that Bhuyam was murdered as he had been receiving threats for exposing corruption and illegal activities of the criminal nexus in the Kakopathar area.

We record our appreciation of your efforts in bringing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1981 with generous compensations. However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations. In many cases culprits roam 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.

Sincerely,

Seema Mustafa, President
Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary
Anant Nath, Treasurer