Bhubaneswar, Dec. 14: Journalists of the Capital city of Bhubaneswar and other parts of Odisha on Monday warned the State government and the police administration not to meddle with press freedom.
A number of senior journalists of the State who addressed the convention titled `Media Unity for Press Freedom’ condemned the arrest of Mohana-based journalist of Odia daily `Sambad’ Laxman Chaudhury in September this year.
Chaudhury – who was arrested by the Gajapati district police for his alleged links with the Maoists and remained in judicial custody for over two months before he was granted bail by the High Court – was felicitated on the occasion.
The journalists who came together in a rare show of unity also blamed the Puri district police for not taking action against those who badly attacked Correspondent of Odia daily The Samaj Jagannath Bastia a few weeks ago.
Bastia, however, could not attend the convention as he had suffered fractures on one of his legs when he was attacked by some anti-social elements.
They also criticised the Jharsuguda district administration for misbehaving with two journalists of Odia daily `Aromv’.
A series of resolutions were passed at the convention where it was decided that December 14 will be observed as Free Press Day by journalists across Odisha.
The resolutions include-a pledge to fight unitedly any attempt to gag or muzzle the press, demand for prior approval in writing of Home department before sections like waging war against the
state, sedition and criminal conspiracy are brought against any working journalist, accreditated or otherwise,demand for immediate withdrawal of such charges against Sambad reporter Laxman Choudhury as well as arrest of the masterminds behind attack on Samaj reporter Jagannath Bastia, stringent action against officials involved in manhandling of two journalists of Oriya daily Aaromv. The convention thanked senior High Court lawyer Jagannath Patnaik , the Paris based international body Reporters Sans Frontiers ( RSF ) and all those who stood solidly behind the effort to get Laxman Choudhury out of jail. A resolution demanding the setting up of a State Media Centre in Bhubaneswar was also passed.
The Convention has decided to observe 14 December as the Free Press Day every year and to respond to any threat or attack against any working journalist in the state. It has also decided to appeal to editors and management of all publications and channels to ensure their representatives working in rural as well as Maoist-affected areas get proper recognition and identity cards.
Journalists from different districts also took part in the convention. Politicians, social activists and lawyers also participated in the convention and expressed solidarity with the journalists of the State.