Needed Is a Law against Attack on Press

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Sad; but true. Press boycotted Orissa legislative Assembly for the first hour today and for the first time in the history of Orissa, in protest against attack on media persons by men in uniform and criminals pampered by police and the party in power.

The regime is so irresponsible that miscreants are having the police act according to their dictates.

Be it the framing up of Laxman Choudhury in sedition case by the police at Mohana or be it sloughing over of the attempt to murder Sri Akhand at Pipili Police Station, in every instance of attack on media persons, the prejudiced stance of Police against the Press is so discernible that it is difficult to see any difference between the mafia and the police. Sadly, the Chief Minister, who himself is the Police Minister, has remained dormant despite repeated collective attempts of the media persons to wake him up to his responsibilities in this regard.

Therefore, there was no other way for the media persons to demonstrate their protests against attack on Press by resorting to a token boycott of the Assembly proceedings, as per their yesterday’s declaration, this forenoon.

We hope, the Chief Minister should be able to read the writings on the wall.

Time is taking a turn towards the worse for his Government.

His government has time and again been stripped layer by layer in the courts of law for unholy nexus with the spiders whose only aim is to feed on Orissa’s mines and natural resources. Naxilites or Maoists – in any style they may be named and any number of armed men may be employed against them, the reality is that there has emerged armed uprising against plutocratic design of his administration. His siding with mega industries at the cost of cultivation, the principal avocation of majority of the state, has given birth to mass agitation against supply of water to those mega industries, which, unless tackled by stopping their commissioning till they are equipped to use sea water instead of sweet water flowing in rivers and lying underground, would acquire such velocity that no force would be able to control. He has, thus, pushed Orissa into a quagmire that can be overcome only through constructive and creative contributions of media persons who belong to and come principally from the masses. Naturally, therefore, the people who benefit from disadvantage of the masses find their own disadvantage in the committed and active media persons who stand for and with the people. This is why they attack them. This is also why the Chief Minister has not taken any tangible step so far to curb the continuous attack on media persons in Orissa.

The nonchalance and recalcitrance displayed by the state administration has rightly been challenged by the journalists on the streets of the capital city of the state as well as through historic boycott of Assembly proceedings for a token time. Orissa had never had this experience. The desired shockwave has penetrated into the users of power that has metamorphosed into impromptu pronouncement by the Minister, Information to cause an enquiry through the Director of Information to locate if there was any attack on media. It only reveals how confused are people in power, because it also reveals that the government is not informed.

When the Chief Minister having personally heard the media persons at least twice on the sordid attacks on Press and having received the memorandum of Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP) personally in this matter is keeping mum, the nexus is so impregnable that the Information Minister’s inquiry through Director of Information will be of no help in bringing the real culprits to book.

When attacks are on records, no enquiry is needed to know of the attacks.

What is needed is action against inaction on part of the law enforcing authorities.

As for example, a looter of public property attempted to murder Mr. Akhand of Kanak TV as he had spread the report about his offense. The Pipili Police Station had registered a case against the miscreant for attempt to murder the reporter; but the moment it was known that the miscreant belongs to ruling party BJD whom its high command supports, the case has been abandoned. So, the crime against a journalist is on records. But no action is being taken. Action is need against such inaction. Unfortunately, the Information Minister is trying to beat about the bushes in the guise of enquiry!

Let the Government take action against inaction in case of attack on media persons that are on records. And let the Minister of Information, instead of indulging in the luxury of enquiry, understand that it would be better for him to immediately initiates framing of a law that would prescribe a minimum amount of rigorous punishment for any transgression into freedom of Press and for any attack on any media person for any of his / her professional work by any official or private person that would include any attempt by police to falsely implicate any media person in any concocted case, with provision for time bound disposal of the case in case of contravention thereof.

This is essential because, without such a law, in the climate of crime that the incumbent government has cultivated in Orissa, threat to freedom of Press will never subside.

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