In response to the December 6 >killing of journalist Sai Reddy , about 200 journalists, mostly from the seven districts of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, have decided to boycott news related to Maoists.
They convened a protest meeting on Saturday and unanimously decided to stop publishing and broadcasting Maoist press releases, unless the outlawed CPI(Maoists) clarified its position in respect of the death of Reddy, 51, at Basaguda market, 500 km south of Raipur. While the police and the journalists claim that he was killed by the Maoists, the rebels are yet to own responsibility. Maoists normally accept responsibility for killing anyone important.
The journalists demanded an explanation from the Maoists. “A few months ago, when another journalist Nemichand Jain was killed, Maoists accepted responsibility. They said they would not attack or assassinate journalists any more. They have violated the agreement, and we must stop releasing their publicity materials immediately,” said Ganesh Mishra, one of the conveners of the meeting
The meeting was organised within a few hundred metres of the spot where Mr. Reddy, who reported for a Hindi daily from Bijapur district, was hacked to death. The market is within a hundred yards of the police station and the battalion camp of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Journalists were surprised that security personnel were reluctant to fire even blanks from the watchtowers manned round the clock.
They also questioned the unethical business practices of media houses in the State. “Bastar journalists are not paid properly and exploited by their organisations. Now, they do not even have any security…Maoists are killing them without any warning, and no one cares, including the management,” said Anil Mishra, a senior journalist from Raipur.
Many other journalists later said lack of support from the employers was jeopardising the lives of those reporting from the partially Maoist controlled areas of south Chhattisgarh. “It is often said journalists take favours from the local administration to write reports. While it is true, let me also ask why newspapers or television channels never pay salaries to their employees in Bastar,” a senior said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The journalists demanded that both the Union and State governments play an active role in safeguarding the “salary and security” of journalists working in the conflict areas of Bastar. As a follow-up action, the journalists are expected to arrange for a meeting between Reddy’s family and the Chhattisgarh Governor within a week.