TERRORISM AGAINST JOURNALISM
Posted on November 22nd, 2009

ALI SUKHANVER

Throughout the world, every nation has to spend a lot of its financial resources on the formation and the development of the security forces; and in return these forces are expected to provide safety and security to the nation. The situation becomes very painful when the security forces become a pain in the neck for the nation itself. People become frightened by losing confidence and the enemies take full advantage of this fear and fright. Recently some reports came to the surface regarding the atrocities of the Indian Police against its own people. Unfortunately some of the victims included media men whose protest could not be concealed by threats and illegitimate pressurizing. One of these victims was Joel Elliott, an American journalist based out of New Delhi. His recent report on the atrocities of the Indian police proved a tempest in the so-called peaceful democratic state of India. The title of the report is “ƒ”¹…”The Police Tried Its Best to Silence My Cries to Call the US Embassy’. He said, “After seeing off two journalist friends of mine whose flight left for London in the morning, I was walking home and accidentally blundered into the middle of a late-night altercation in which half a dozen police officers were beating someone in the street. A police officer started hitting me because I had witnessed the real face of the Indian Police. I hit him back in self-defense and then the cops spent the next six hours or so beating and torturing me at the Nizamuddin police station .Besides myself and the man in the street, I saw a third man also  being tortured  there in the same brutal way. The cops at the Nizamuddin police station tried their best to silence my cries for someone to call the US embassy, beating me with batons as I lay on the floor in chains. As I lay during the next two days in a hospital bed, they took other, less physical, measures to squelch the message I was sure to give “”…” telling the press all manner of absurdities: that they had never touched me, that I had tried to steal a taxi, that I had assaulted elderly people in the street, that I was inebriated. This despite the fact that the only alcohol test administered that day showed I had no alcohol whatsoever in my system. What happened to me in the early morning hours of October 6, 2009 was a nightmare. My body will always bear the marks of the batons of Delhi Police.” The beaten journalist was thankful to Ambika Soni, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting for taking personal interest in this matter but he was worried about hundreds of people who have no access to the hi-ups like Ambika Soni .Reported by the Tahelka.com, Joel Elliott said, “The Indian government’s strategy is clear: If the victim has the means to make himself heard, especially to the international press, as I do, act concerned; if he doesn’t, forget it.” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said for the report, “India is modernizing rapidly, but the police continue to use their old methods: abuse and threats. It’s time for the government to stop talking about reform and fix the system.”

 Whatever happened to Joel Elliott, the government of India might portray as an accident, but the past history of the present India would not support this incident as an accident. Journalists have ever been a well aimed target in India .The government of India has been ignoring the fact that journalism is now more than a profession; it has become a sacred status of preaching and reformation. Journalists are every where treated as reformers and this approach about them is gaining universality. The true journalists are working for the betterment of the world like selfless volunteers. The war against terror could never have been a success if journalists were not standing against the terrorists with all their strength and determination. From the history turning incident of 9/11 to the mysterious Mumbai attacks, from the dark bloody cells of the Gauntanamo Bay to the rape cases of young girls in the Indian Occupied Kashmir by the Indian army officials, all pictures of pain and misery were brought to light by the journalists. They are the real fighters against terrorism and the terrorists. Making them a victim to terrorism means the projection of terrorism.

 In the last week of October, 2009, the journalists in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh had to experience the worst example of the state terrorism by India. According to the details, a workshop was being conducted at the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute India (SDMRI) in collaboration with the Institute for the Continuing Education of Journalists, a body promoted by journalists’ unions and associations in Sweden, committing funding for the workshop. Just at the last moments the journalists from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were intimated that the Indian government had refused to issue visas and they would not be able to participate in the workshop. The International Federation of Journalists IFJ expressed deep concern over this injustice and discrimination. The IFJ said four journalists from both countries had to cancel their participation in the workshop at the last minute and this act certainly proved a shameful blob on the face of India. IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said in a statement. “The IFJ is very disappointed at this incident and calls upon the Indian authorities to rethink their visa policy for journalists from neighbouring countries.” He further said, “As the pivotal country in South Asia, with the best developed media and highly-diversified training institutions, we expect India to be more transparent and magnanimous in its attitude toward journalists from neighbouring countries.”

 Maltreatment with the journalists has become a cultural tradition of the Indian society. Most of the times, this tradition is observed under the “ƒ”¹…”kind’ supervision of the politicians, government office-holders and the high rankers belonging to the Indian army and the police. It was March 7, 2006, when two employees of a private Indian television channel at Lucknow were roughed up and their car set ablaze by four unidentified attackers for carrying a news report claiming that BSP leader Mayawati possessed “unaccounted” wealth.  A cameraman and an assistant were pulled out of their car by the attackers who arrived on motorcycles at the channel office, and set the vehicle on fire. The attackers lashed out at the employees for airing the programme on BSP Chief. The same story was repeated in September 2008 when some Hindu extremists attacked an Indian TV channel office in Mumbai to protest the marriage of a Hindu Girl with a Muslim boy. They thought the channel was denigrating Hinduism by promoting love between people from different religions. As a result of this attack the Channel had to bear grave losses. Now again on 20th November, 2009, an Indian television channel broadcasting in the local Marathi language came under attack in the western city of Mumbai. Suspected Hindu hardliners used iron rods and sticks to beat employees and smash the furniture of the IBN Lokmat TV channel. It was not immediately clear why the attack took place, but the media house said the attackers claimed to belong to the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party. An IBN Lokmat journalist said the armed attackers were looking for Nikhil Wagle, the editor-in-chief of the channel, and wanted to “teach him a lesson”.

 The Indian authorities have promised to provide all possible security to the journalists and penalize the miscreants in all cases of terrorism against media men but as far as the journalists in India are concerned it is something next to unbelievable.  How can be the journalists in India promised security when the security personals themselves are the biggest culprits and the worst threat to peace and calm of the Indian society.

 The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on international defense and strategic affairs.

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