Journalist’s Hazard

The recent news about the killing of journalists in different parts of the country is a matter of concern. What is all the more distressing is that the nature of incidents as reported, appear to be directly related to the work being done by the journalists. Both the killings—a sub-editor of the leading Manipur based Imphal Free Press and a senior field Reporter of a Assamese local newspaper—appear to be pre-planned and the victims were specifically targeted for obvious reasons. Another similar incident was the mysterious killing of a women journalist working with a news channel very recently in New Delhi. One of the fundamental duties of a journalist is to report to the public through the medium of either a newspaper or the television. While this basic function of a journalist may appear to be simple and straight forward, yet there is an inherent risk involved and this is something which a journalist will always have to carry with him or her. As much as the fundamental duty of a journalist is to report the truth (objectively), there will be those who will do everything possible to hide the truth. It is for this reason that journalists are easy target especially if they are in the knowhow of sensitive information, documents or facts, which may be damaging to certain vested interest people.  

Therefore, the recent killings and other form of violence against journalists should not be easily brushed aside simply as a mere aberration but one which goes to show that there are elements who are out to seriously jeopardize the freedom of expression for the mere pretext of silencing the truth. In Nagaland as well, newspapers, their staff, editors and publishers have to work under a climate of intimidation of various degree such as political pressure, threats or bullying tactic. The hazards of the job being what it is, a journalist will have to remain ever vigilant and to remain on guard at all times. Any information that is gathered—especially if it is sensitive—will have to be cross checked. Self-imposed censorship may even be demanded of journalist. This is necessarily not a good thing but it is better to avoid any possible threat to one’s life and property. The latter is as much a fundamental right of an individual and in that sense, one’s professional ethics should not be allowed to take away this basic human right. 

With regard to the recent killings in Manipur and Assam, appropriate investigations should be carried so that such incidents are not repeated. Failure to bring those responsible to justice could encourage the perpetrators to continue thus leading to further harassment against the media. The State governments including in Nagaland must also step in and take precautionary measures so that journalists are allowed to travel and work without any constraints. For this, it will demand a change of attitude of the government. The reasons are simple. At present skepticism is there among journalists especially in the northeast about the ability or willingness of the authorities to protect members of the press, and to safeguard their right to carry out their work. Press accreditation must go beyond merely doling out cash incentives. While Governments must give due recognition to the media commensurate with their importance as the fourth pillar of democracy, yet it will be an eye wash if journalists are made to continue working under a climate of fear and insecurity. This will be tantamount to official apathy — encouraging the feeling that journalists can be threatened, injured, or killed without consequence.