Spike in Attacks, Threats and Intimidation of Journalists in India’s Orissa

IFJ Press release, August 2,2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demands action be taken against perpetrators of a deeply disturbing series of attacks upon journalists and media workers in Orissa, in India’s east, outlined in a new report.

The Free Speech Hub, which is featured on the Hoot, a website sponsored by the New Delhi-based Media Foundation, documented a horrific series of incidents perpetrated against journalists in Orissa between January and July 2010, when 12 cases of physical attacks on reporters, stringers or camera operators and six cases of threat and intimidation took place. This is a substantial increase on the total of three attacks which were recorded in the state in all of 2009.

A number of the attacks were allegedly perpetrated by Central Industrial Security Force and Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel. In three cases police were present but did not act.

“This important report by Free Speech Hub highlights the very real risks that journalists in Orissa take every day in reporting the news,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“The IFJ calls on Orissa’s state government to stand in the way of these outrageous attacks on journalists and media workers by acting to prevent them from occurring and thoroughly investigating past assaults.”

The attacked journalists were reporting on a range of controversial issues and events including the Maoist conflict, movements resisting displacement due to mining and steel projects, instances of corruption in government-sponsored projects, alleged illegal activities of elected representatives, victims of medical negligence and spontaneous student protests.

The report found that stringers and freelancers are often at the receiving end of these assaults, and must be more vigorously protected and defended by media companies in conjunction with their colleagues and journalists’ organisations.

Orissa has become a high-risk environment for journalists, with the state government lodging four cases of sedition against journalists between 2004 and 2009.

The attacks and threats have occurred in the context of a major boom in media in the state, which has coincided with rapid industrialisation. Increased urbanisation, higher literacy, access to modern printing technology and, very significantly, the entry of big business and the promise of advertising revenues have fueled this rapid growth.

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