World Press Freedom Day: Media under attack; Major incidents at a glance

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Representative photo college / Sources: AFP, Mathrubhumi

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom day. The day is observed to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to uphold the right to freedom of expression. But the media is always under attack in India. From the assassination of journalists to legal action against journalists and media houses reveal how our country is curtailing the freedom of the press. Let’s take a look at top incidents during 2017-2022.

Centre bans MediaOne News channel

On January 31, 2022, the central government barred the telecast of Malayalam news channel MediaOne citing ‘security reasons’. The action invited the ire of many with the opposition-led Congress party naming the move as undemocratic.

On March 15, the Supreme Court stayed the orders of the centre and allowed the channel to resume its operations.

Earlier, MediaOne, along with another Malayalam News channel, Asianet, was briefly suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of communal violence in Delhi in 2020, with the official orders then saying they covered the violence in a manner that “highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community.

Media persons in Kerala under the banner of Kerala Union of Working Journalists, protest against the decision of the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to suspend the services of Malayalam television channel MediaOne TV, in Thiruvananthapuram / Source: PTI

Bihar Journalist found killed – Nov 21, 2021

The body of a 22-year-old journalist and RTI activist Buddhinath Jha alias Avinash Jha was found burned and tossed by the roadside near a village in Bihar. According to reports, he was kidnapped after he exposed the operation of fake medical clinics. His post-mortem report suggested that he was first strangulated and his body was set on fire later.

Journalist killed in Lakhimpur Kheri violence-Oct 10,2021

Raman Kashyap, a freelance journalist who was a correspondent of local news channel Sadhna TV was found dead a day after covering the protest in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, 2021. It is reported that the body of Kashyap who had been missing after the violence was found in the mortuary.

Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra and 15 others are booked for the murder of 9 people including the journo.

Activists lighting the candle during a candle light march against the Lakhimpur Kheri violence incident, in New Delhi / Source: ANI

Journalist stabbed to death in AP- August 8, 2021

Chennakesavulu, a journalist with a local news channel EV-5 in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool, was stabbed to death with a screwdriver. He was allegedly killed by a police constable and his brother for exposing the constable’s illegal activities on a show aired on the news channel. He had exposed the ugly nexus of Nandyal II town police station constable Venkata Subbaiah with matka gamblers and prohibited tobacco products smugglers which led to the cop’s suspension.

Siddiqui Ahamad Danish / Source: Myithili Hazarika

Indian Photojournalist killed in Afghanistan-July 16, 2021

Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed in Afghanistan on July 16, 2021. He was the chief photographer for Reuters who was on assignment in a foreign land. It is reported that he was brutally murdered by the Taliban after verifying his identity. According to the Washington Examiner report, Siddiqui travelled with an Afghan National Army team to the Spin Boldak region to cover fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban to control the lucrative border crossing with Pakistan.

UP Journalist set on fire with sanitiser- Nov 27, 2020

Rakesh Singh, a 37-yr-old journalist and his friend died after being set on fire with sanitiser by a three-member team. Police arrested three men including the son of a village pradhan over the case. Rakesh Singh Nirbhik, who used to write for a Lucknow-based newspaper Rashtriya Swaroop, along with friend Pintu Sahu, 34, was found with severe burn injuries inside the journalist's home in a village in Balrampur.

Before succumbing to the burns, Nirbhik told hospital officials he had been writing regularly on alleged corruption by the local village gram Pradhan and her son. "This is the price for reporting the truth," the journalist can be heard saying in a 2.5-minute video.

Siddique Kappan /
Source: Mathrubhumi

UAPA case against Siddique Kappan -Oct 5, 2020

Siddique Kappan, a native of Malappuram was arrested by Uttar Pradesh on October 5, 2020, along with three members of the Popular Front of India. He was arrested when he was en route to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, to report on the incident where a Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped and murdered by dominant caste men. They were accused of having the intention to disrupt peace and were charged under UAPA. Kappan is housed in UP jail since October 7, 2020. On June 15, 2021, the Mathura court dropped charges of breach of peace against him.

DD journalist killed in Chhattisgarh- Oct 30, 2018

Achyutananda Sahu, a video journalist of Doordarshan was killed in Chhattisgarh on October 30, 2018, during a firefight between police and a Maoist militant group. The journalist and his two colleagues were embedded with the police and covering preparations for elections scheduled for the following month.

According to the police, the media team were caught in the crossfire when Maoists attacked the police.

Journalist beaten to death in Jharkhand- Oct 29, 2018

Chandan Tiwary, a journalist in Ranchi based Hindi daily was beaten to death in Jharkhand on October 29, 2018. According to police, he was found injured in Balthar forest. It is reported that he had filed a complaint regarding the threat to life. Jharkhand police identified four people–Maoist area commander Prasant, Pintu Singh, Jamuna Prasad, and Musafir Rana–as suspects who abducted and killed the journalist.

Gauri Lankesh shot dead- Sept 5, 2017

Gauri Lankesh, a journalist turned activist was shot dead at her residence in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. She was known for being a critic of right-wing Hindu extremism. The Special Investigation Team named 18 accused in the case and arrested 17 people. The SIT has said in the charge sheet that the Hindu extremist organisation, Sanatan Sanstha, is responsible for the murder of Gauri Lankesh. As per the findings of the SIT, the murder of Gauri Lankesh was linked to the murders of other left-leaning activists and rationalists like Professor MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.

Gauri Lankesh / Source: Mathrubhumi Library

Tripura journalist hacked to death- Sep 20, 2017

Shantanu Bhowmik, a journalist with channel Din Raat, a local cable television channel was hacked to death while covering a political protest at Mandvi village in Tripura. Newspapers in Tripura have run blank editorial pages to protest against Shantanu’s murder. Police have accused Tapan Debbarma, the commandant of the Second Tripura State Rifles, of ordering his bodyguard to shoot Bhaumik. Both have been arrested.

(Compiled by Ranju Raj)

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