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Updated: March 12, 2012 00:41 IST

Killing of scribes: justice delayed or denied

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S. Viswanathan
The Hindu
S. Viswanathan

Not a day passes without the ruling establishment swearing by Free Speech and reiterating its commitment to stand by the Fourth Estate in its efforts to strengthen democracy. In spite of this, the sabotage of bona fide journalistic activities and the mindless killing of scribes continue. Two recent incidents: the brutal attack on journalists by groups of lawyers in Bangalore on March 2; and the cold-blooded murder of a senior investigative journalist, his wife, and their two teen-aged children in Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh on February 18.

The attack on the Bangalore journalists left 60 persons injured. It happened when former Karnataka Minister G. Janardhana Reddy was brought to the CBI Court amid tight security in connection with a case of illegal mining in Andhra Pradesh. The journalists were in court to cover the proceedings against the mining baron. Reports said the lawyers' attack on journalists was in protest against the media's “negative coverage” of the advocates' “road roko” agitation on January 18, which paralysed traffic in the metropolis. The journalists complained that the police “played a passive role” all through the attack.

The murder of Chandrika Rai, a freelance journalist who exposed the mining mafia of Madhya Pradesh, and his family sent shock waves across the State. Rai had been consistently fighting illegal coal mining at great risk to himself and his family. Living about 450 kilometres from Bhopal and witnessing the illegal activities in scores of coalfields from close quarters, he contributed a series of articles to Navbharat, a Hindi daily from Bhopal, and The Hitavada, a Nagpur-based English daily with editions in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In some articles, he seems to have highlighted the involvement of a prominent local leader of the ruling BJP.

First reports linked the beastly crime to the journalist's consistent fight against the mining mafia. The Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, Ajay Singh, threw the blame on the mafia, which, he believed, resorted to the horrific crime “to silence the power of his [Rai's] pen.” The district police, however, has brought in two more possible motives for the crime: Rai's reported comment on the police action against the kidnapping of a government official's seven-year-old son, and a reported land dispute between Rai and a “local individual.” All this points to an attempt to drag on the investigation, which would be to the advantage of the real culprits. The Union of Madhya Pradesh Working Journalists has justifiably demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Although the murder of the Rai family was no less shocking than the killing last year of the investigative journalist Jyotirmoy Dey, who covered Mumbai's underworld, media coverage of the former appears woefully inadequate. The common factor is journalists taking on hardened criminals. In the J. Dey case, nothing much has taken place so far. The only recent development in the case was the filing of the charge sheet against the Mumbai-based journalist Jigna Vora on February 21. According to the police, “professional rivalry” could have led to the murder of J. Dey. However, they are yet to find a credible motive for the murder. It will be no surprise if the case in respect of the Rai family ends up similarly.

A promise not kept

The Maharashtra Government is yet to deliver on its assurance made last year in the wake of J. Dey's murder that it would come out with an Act to protect journalists against deadly attacks. K. K. Katyal, president of the South Asia Media Commission's Indian Chapter, has called on the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry to evolve effective steps in collaboration with the Home Ministry to protect vulnerable journalists. Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju's prompt and sharp responses to media-related problems will also go a long way in finding appropriate solutions.

According to a study by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 864 working journalists have been killed in different countries during the last two decades. India is one of 13 risk-prone countries where civilians, including journalists, fall victim to attacks in war zones and other trouble-prone areas. Such attacks have claimed the lives of 27 persons in India, 20 of them journalists from Assam, since 1992. Iraq, Pakistan, Russia and the Philippines are some of the other countries that come under the ‘risky' category, in which governments fail to solve the crimes. In most such cases, justice eludes the victims.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

"Justice delayed is justice denied" is a statement that appropriately
suits the Indian scenario, be it politics, policing, or anything! The
common man's plight for justice is a hard road to travel today. We
have 'volunteers' from different 'socially menacing sections', some of
them even officials and professionals, taking the course of violence!
Alas they don't know killing one individual is not the permanent
solution to their atrocities, but rather opens a new gateway for
further exposure of the crime and bring in the public introspection,
which is possible only by responsible citizens demanding justice for
those who previously fought for them. This is where the public should
take initiative and see to that the guilty are convicted. We have
laws, but are our laws secure? We have rules, but are they
unbreakable? We have the top notch officials in the governance; but
are all flawless individuals??

from:  Sujith V
Posted on: Mar 14, 2012 at 15:56 IST

I condemn all the murders&atrocities done on journalists. Journalists face enmity from all sections of unlawful people as their activities exposed to the world by journalists. Free journalism is the mark of good democracy.Govt's should safe guard journalists from criminals&antisocial elements.

from:  Dr.SubhashDabir
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 20:25 IST

First incident of Bangalore lawyers attack on media in unacceptable and its shows that one important organ of democracy encroaching and disrepute the other important pillar of same democracy. But unfortunately few stray lawyers are defaming the profession by repeating such act in just fortnight gap of first one causing huge traffic jam in Mysore bank circle suffered by bangaloreans who uses that junction without moving vehicles(s). They are protector of constitution and Indian laws through their profession by not letting innocent punish without guilty. In that way have to carry out their profession and uplift dignity and highness of the profession not indulging in boycott the court proceedings as it amount to contempt of court. In Bangalore you can go any canteen, bus tops, malls or wherever people gathers their talks on devils acts of lawyers as they watched medias broadcasting of dragging one of the screw member and thrashing him like inhuman manner allow them to express such opinion

from:  RAGHAVENDRA R PAWAR
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 15:03 IST

Dear sir
Thank you for addressing a burning topic at an appropriate time. Killing any humanbeing is uncivilized. Media plays a key role in democracy. Recently a young IPS officer was killed by politically motivated goons in Madhya Pradesh.With reference to this a news story "Honesty can get you killed " published in your esteed newspaper. In Bangalore episode lawyers have shown their barbaric attitude towards journalists by beating them. Their actions have demonstrated as if they are in favour Gali Janardhan Reddy. Democracy is alive even today because of Media. The commoner has a say because of media. The needy has a say because of media. Though media is not being exempted from some unethical pratices but media as whole is doing a better service to the society. People are clever enough to judge what is wrong and what is right. Political leaders or the rulers are hardly keep their promises alive. Governments should not stand like spectators.

from:  Ramakrishna Ogirala
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 14:32 IST

@Chamraj Bangi
With all humbleness to you I have few points to counter you.
1. Our minister are elected by us do you imply they have right to beat us?
2. Doctors, engineers, managers, lawyers all get degree form somewhere and then operate. Do you suggest they have got all the right to beat and kill any body who in their eyes do some activity that they don't like?
Sir it's not only about beating and denigrating media. Efforts are on to curb the voice that speaks for those who are marginalised. I am not advocating that there is no inclination and declination in media. But aren't our politicians, doctors, lawyers, engineers and managers inclined and declined? Should we beat them all in streets without hearing them in the court? I just urge anybody who justify these unwarranted attacks on media to be wary of the fact that supporting these may one day lead to anarchy. If somebody is guilty of doing something bring them inside court. We can do it with Kasab why not with media?

from:  Ajeet Tiwari
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 11:21 IST

However cliched it may sound but I'll again say "if you don't like the message shoot the messenger" is what our frustrated, fuming and so called powerful class has resorted to. There can be nothing as ridiculous as accusing media of "negative reporting". Media can't report on rceord what it can't show on camera. Media also can't write what it has not got ample proof for. And if it does so what locus standi one has got to beat and kill the media persons. if media does some wrong chargesheet them bring them to the book and let them face the music. I fear if the photo journalist who exposed the porn-gate fall pray to filthy cover up project of political class. Please save the the voice who voices for the unheard and unspoken.
Whatever those who wield the power can do to shut the media up they can't get all the pens dry and the lenses blurred.

from:  Ajeet Tiwari
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 11:01 IST

Is there any statutory support to media? To become a lawyer, one is
bound to be law graduate and should get enrolled in the jurisdictional
Bar Council. There is well defined code of conduct for lawyers, any
violation of which invites disciplinary action. Advocates Act 1961 and
Rule govern the profession and Bar Councils have major role in framing
parameters for law education. Lawyer has to be very polite while
making submission before judge. Court can initiate proceedings against
lawyer if he or she is found irresponsible. Media takes liberty under
constitutional freedom of expression. This freedom is not without
restriction. In the absence of regulatory authority to ensure
accountability, media is misusing this unfettered freedom arrogantly
and irresponsibly. Growing craze for publicity and coverage is being
exploited by media and threatening right to liberty and privacy.
P.C.I. Chief J. Katju has raised some relevant questions on the
credibility and quality of our media persons.

from:  Chamaraj Bangi
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 07:57 IST
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