Editors of the leading newspapers in Imphal created history on Saturday morning by selling their newspaper copies in the streets of Imphal city. For over one week newspaper copies have not reached the people as the paper boys did not deliver the copies under threat from extremists. One extremist group has been banning publication, sale and distribution of newspapers as a retaliation to the spiking of its press releases by the local newspapers.
Hemanta Ningomba, editor of the Manipuri edition of The Hueiyen Lanpao told The Hindu that he could sell over 6,000 copies within one hour. Editors of other newspapers also sold along with him. He said that more editors are likely to join on Sunday. The sale of the newspapers by the editors will continue till the All Manipur Newspapers Sale and Distributors Association is allowed to distribute the copies.
Meanwhile the Editors' Committee Manipur has appealed to the people to help the paper boys to deliver the copies. As a matter of policy the local newspapers do not publish press releases of newly formed outfits and factions of established groups. One editor said that the outfit in question is a new and unheard of one and as such the Editors' Committee Manipur decided not to entertain its press releases. The angry extremists reportedly told the editors and reporters that they would be killed. Besides the paper boys were also told that they should not deliver the copies. They will also be shot dead if they disobey.
On September 2 the scribes took out a silent procession to submit a memorandum to the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. The next day they also staged a sit-in protest. There were no editions for two days. Representatives of the NGOs and women activists also staged a sit-in protest in Imphal asking the extremists not to disturb the newspapermen.
This is for the fifth time in less than five years that newspapers in Manipur have completely shut down following threats from the extremists. The government has not come out with a helping hand. All that the Chief Minister said was that the editors should wait and watch since the angry readers will come out against the extremists. In a meeting held at press club on Friday the Editors' Committee, the All Manipur Working Journalists' Union and the All Manipur Newspapers Sale and Distributors Association reaffirmed their stand. There is pressure from the Press Council of India, other journalists' groups to the Manipur government to create a congenial atmosphere so that the journalists could work freely.