New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India Wednesday expressed concern over the plight of journalists in Manipur and called for urgent remedial measures to bridge the growing gulf between the state government and security forces on one hand and the media on the other.
A two-member team of the Guild that visited the state last month discovered that the media was under pressure from insurgent groups, harassed by the state government and police, and was also under stress from “non-state underground players”.
“Unlike other states, in Manipur, the Information and Broadcasting Minister does not interact with journalists,” the report submitted by veteran journalists Sumit Chakravartty and B.G. Verghese notes.
At present the only minister to interact with the media is the sports minister, a former footballer, said the Guild.
“Besides the state, the media is under pressure from insurgent groups, especially the splinter elements, as in Margaret Thatcher’s famous phrase, publicity is the oxygen of terror. There is a veiled atmosphere of fear in which there is a private voice and public utterance. This is a very difficult path to negotiate but it is a journey that must be undertaken.”
The Guild also expressed concern over murder of five journalists, gunned down by unknown people, in the last few years.
“The state government has so far failed to either identify or book the perpetrators. Media fraternities in the state suspect the involvement of the security forces in some of the killings. Apart from continued harassment by the Manipur police and state government, journalists in the state are also pressured by non-state underground
players,” the report said.
The Guild has recommended the setting up of regular informal meetings between senior editors and journalists with the chief minister, official spokesman, chief secretary, the director general of police and other officers of the Unified Command jointly so as to restore confidence and bring about a rapprochement.
It has also suggested setting up a media support group of academics, former administrators, erstwhile security personnel, respected political figures, jurists, professionals and NGOs in Imphal and elsewhere in Manipur.
Professional bonding between the state journalists and media group all over the country through internships could impart mutual strength and solidarity to both the local and national media, the report advised.