In a statement from Vienna, Austria, on 10 May, International Press Institute has stood with the Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP) in its campaign against assault on media in Orissa. Here is the statement:
VIENNA, 10 May: A journalist in Orissa, India was brutally beaten on 6 May, a day after his paper published an article he wrote alleging irregularities in a government-funded welfare scheme.
Biranjan Mallick, who works for local vernacular newspaper Khabar in Suninda, a village in the Balanga district of the eastern Indian state of Orissa, was beaten after he wrote a report exposing financial irregularities in the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) scheme, a government-funded social assistance program administered by rural ‘panchayats’ or councils. Mallick was allegedly attacked by the elected head of the local panchayat and his supporters after officials arrived at the village to assess the veracity of his story.
According to a report by the Media Unity for Press Freedom (MUFP), a local group formed to combat the growing numbers of attacks against the media in Orissa, the attackers tied Mallick to a tree before beating him and stealing his camera and phone. The alleged attackers are reportedly affiliated with Biju Janata Dal, a political party that holds a share of power in the state government of Orissa, MUFP reported.
According to a spokesperson of the MUFP, three persons have been arrested for assaulting the journalist, but the main suspect remains at large. Mallick has also been receiving calls threatening revenge for the arrests and is reportedly concerned for the welfare of his family.
This is the latest in a growing number of attacks against the press in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.
On 8 May, several members of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), a paramilitary force in the town of Angul, allegedly attacked several journalists as they attempted to cover the beating of a local truck driver by the soldiers. The truck driver had allegedly run over the daughter of one of the personnel in his vehicle. When journalists tried to cover the beating, their cameras were seized and at least one journalist was injured.
According to information from MUFP, on 29 April, Chandrakanta Das, a journalist with the Oriya daily Dharitri was assaulted because he had reported on a robbery. Despite a protest by the Jagatsinghpur Journalists’ Association on 5 May, no action has been taken against the perpetrator of the attack.
On 27 April, a group of journalists who had gone to a local educational establishment to cover the death of a student, allegedly due to food poisoning, were assaulted, and at least two journalists were seriously injured.
There have also been several reports of journalists being arrested or harassed because of their alleged links to Maoist Communist insurgent organizations. The state and central government are locked in an increasingly violent struggle with separatist Maoist groups in Orissa and other states in India.
“These attacks against members of the press are unacceptable in a country such as India, which makes proud claims about its respect for democracy and press freedom,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “We call on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and to end the growing trend of violence against journalists in Orissa.”