The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Thursday wrote to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressing concern over growing incidents of violence against journalists in the state. Journalists in Assam have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation and threats, which is vitiating the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media, the EGI said in a letter to Sonowal.
“The Editors Guild of India writes to you with deep concern about the growing incidence of violence against journalists in Assam. While we appreciate your firm condemnation of these incidents, the situation demands your urgent intervention,” it read. The EGI sought the chief minister’s intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from criminals and, in the absence of that, a sense of impunity could embolden attackers who may believe that they are above the law.
In the letter, the Guild mentioned two recent incidents in which one journalist was attacked and another was run over and killed by a car. “The manner in which Milan Mahanta, 42, who writes for Asomiya Pratidin and Dainik Asom, was tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly, is a testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam,” said the letter signed by EGI’s President Seema Mustafa, General Secretary Sanjay Kapoor and Treasurer Anant Nath.
Mahanta, who named the assailants in his complaint, claimed that he was beaten up for his reportage against gambling and land mafias in Kamrup district. “This incident comes close on the heels of the death of Parag Bhuyan, a journalist with Pratidin Time, who was overrun by a car near his home in Kakopathar,” the Guild said.
The Pratidin Time channel has alleged that Bhuyan was murdered as he had been receiving threats for exposing corruption and illegal activities of the criminal nexus in the Kakopathar area of Tinsukia district. “We record our appreciation of your efforts in bringing monetary relief to the kin of the 32 journalists killed in Assam since 1991 with generous compensations.
However, most of the cases have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations,” the EGI pointed out. In many cases, culprits roam free intimidating the families of the slain journalists, it added.
“We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear,” said the letter. When contacted, the Chief Minister’s Office confirmed receipt of the letter from the EGI.