Journos exposing corruption in India vulnerable, says watchdog
New Delhi: Media persons working to expose corruption in India face “grave dangers”, an international media rights body has concluded claiming there has not been a single conviction in 27 cases of murder of journalists that it has tracked and documented since 1992.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its latest report recommends the Centre convene a parliamentary hearing on the issue of impunity in anti-press violence and identify shortcomings and ways to overcome challenges of capacity in law enforcement and in the judiciary.
New York-based CPJ in the report mentioned “there have been no convictions,” in the 27 cases of work-related murder of journalists it tracked since 1992.
Corruption and politics were the two “deadliest beats”, it said.
The CPJ said it could find only one case in 10 years where a suspect was prosecuted and convicted for murdering a journalist, but was later released on appeal.
It also said that those reporting in remote and rural areas are at greater risk of threats and violence.
It lamented often there is little outrage among the media fraternity and society at large when a journalist is attacked or killed.
The Committee closely examined the deaths of three journalists – Jagendra Singh who was killed in Uttar Pradesh, Umesh Rajput (killed in Chhattisgarh) and Akshay Singh (who died in Madhya Pradesh) – to come to conclusions and make suggestions.
It sought that the investigations into the 2015 death of Akshay Singh and the 2011 murder of Umesh Rajput in Chhattisgarh be completed expeditiously while the probe into the 2015 death of Jagendra Singh be transferred from state police to the CBI.
The report also noted that even the country’s own watchdog, the Press Council of India (PCI), has felt the culprits are getting away with impunity and advocated the parliament enact a nationwide safety law for journalists.
Talking of “little outrage” in media itself over attacks, the report mentions as “an exception” the February 2016 march of prominent journalists in New Delhi to protest against an attack by lawyers on press persons at Patiala House court.
In contrast, the same week, CPJ documented how Karun Misra, a journalist from a small town in Sultanpur district of UP, a 12-hour drive from the capital, was shot dead in apparent retaliation for his work.
His killing neither attracted the same level of attention nor high-profile calls for action, it added.
Among its recommendations, the CPJ has sought bringing together jurists, journalists, scholars, and experts to submit draft proposals for a national-level journalist safety and protection mechanism and a method to federalize crimes against free expression.
Study best practices used by nations facing similar threats, including Colombia, where a national protection mechanism was set up to provide security, and Mexico, where a federal prosecutor’s office was set up to investigate attacks on the press and freedom of expression, it has recommended.
The report sought more resources and political support for authorities— including the judiciary, CBI and police— to conduct exhaustive and timely investigations and trials.
It also sought recognition for the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, held annually on November 2.
It also recommended that journalists themselves should better investigate and report on issues of anti-press violence, including individual attacks, threats, and harassment, regardless of the victim’s media affiliation.
Employers should provide up-to-date press identification cards to all media staff involved in news gathering, including stringers and part-time employees, it recommended.
Employers should establish clear mechanisms for staff and freelancers to report threats, harassment, or attacks, and offer appropriate support, the report added.