“The media as an entity and Freedom of Speech and Expression as a Fundamental Right are under grave threat from the ruling establishment”, says the ‘White Paper on attack on Media’ in Orissa, released by Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP) on Saturday.
Introducing the White Paper, MUFP coordinator Prasanta Patnaik expressed deep dismay over ever increasing threat to freedom of Press as Orissa Government has not yet taken any specific step to curb this crime. Police has not only helped the rowdies that have attacked the media persons, but also encouraged cooked up counter allegations against the attacked print, electronic and photo journalists, Patnaik alleged.
MUFP has enumerated events of attack on Media in details in the White Paper and also brought out its digital version in a CD.
Both the publications were released by eminent author and editor of Samaya, Sri Satakadi Hota in the function organized for the purpose at the Lohia Academy auditorium in presence of print media editors and electronic media heads as well as the Bhubaneswar based journalists.
The dignity and freedom of the fourth estate must be protected and fortified at any cost if democratic sovereignty of people is to be saved, said Sri Hota, who also is a member of the MUFP Media Advisory Panel.
MUFP presidium member Subhas Chandra Pattanayak described the event as historic inasmuch as in history of Orissa there was never such collective concern expressed by press persons against attack on Press in Orissa.
“A major reason behind the spurt in attacks on media persons in Orissa”, says the MUFP White Paper, “is the state government’s growing intolerance to any view that does not toe the government line on corporate and mining interests –particularly those dealing in precious metals like iron ore and bauxite. These companies, people are told, will usher in ‘rapid development’, create enormous employment opportunities and make Orissa a land of milk and honey. There is a concerted effort to manufacture consensus on the need to roll out the red carpet to these companies and turn a blind eye to their flagrant violation of all laws and norms of civilized corporate behavior. When media persons refuse to buy this line and raise questions on the acts of omission and commission by the government and the corporates, the wrath of the government falls on them like a ton of bricks.
“Stray attacks on individual journalists by the powers that be have long ceased to raise eyebrows in Orissa, just as it has done in the rest of the country. But in the last five years, the attacks have become more frequent, more widespread and more vicious. A distinct pattern has begun to emerge in the targeting of journalists in the state. It is no more directed at the stray journalist toeing a stridently anti-government line; it is now a systematic attempt to identify and punish all journalists or groups of journalists, who may have an opinion that may not be to the liking of the ruling political and bureaucratic class. Muzzling voices of dissent has never been more brazen.
“The assault on the Freedom of the Press has become particularly vicious in the last two years. Journalists have been hounded; assaulted; insulted; humiliated; put on surveillance; beaten up (either by goons or by the police and sometimes by both); charged with ‘sedition’ and ‘waging war against the State’ and much worse. Even lady reporters have not been spared. There is an audacity on display, which is deeply worrying in a functioning democracy. It is as if the political-bureaucratic-corporate class has got a firm assurance from someone that nothing will happen to them no matter how brazen the attack is. That is why Bhubaneswar Police Commissionerate can single out a particular journalist of a leading Odia daily and bar his entry into a Press Meet by the Commissioner; or the supposedly ‘long’ arm of the law stops well short of a minister’s son – despite assaulting a journalist in full public view and being named in the FIR lodged by the concerned journalist”.
The White paper has recorded the physical attacks perpetrated on media persons as well as cooked up gruesome cases instituted against them by or through the police at different time in chronological order. The victimized media persons focused in the White Paper include Kirti Chandra Sahu, Khuturam Sunani, Meghanad Kharsel , Lenin Ray, Laxman Choudhury, Sriharsha Mishra, Kirana Mishra, Jagannath Bastia, Banka Bihari Bishoi, Dinesh Das , Ashok Pradhan, Bolan Gangopadyaya, Abhay Pati, Dandapani Mohapatra, Amulya Kumar Pati, Manas Jena, Sujit Mullick, Chandrakanta Das, Biranjan Mallik, Jagadananda Pradhan, Prasanta Patnaik, Akhand, Bhabani Das, Suryamani Mishra, Debasis Mallik, Ramnarayan Das, Srikanta Sahoo, Somanath Sahu, Kiran, Prasanta, NM Baisakh, Anup Ray and Rajat Ranjan Das over and above the groups of journalist brutally attacked and injured by goons of Silicon Institute of Technology (SIT) such as Rohan of Kanak TV who received serious head injury, by medicos at MKCG Medical College, by Biju Janata Dal hooligans at Bhapur of Nayagarh district and at Banki of Cuttack district. A lady journalist – name kept hidden – molested by uniformed men at ISCON car festival, Bhubaneswar is also noted in the White Paper. The media organizations arbitrarily debarred by the police from covering events of public importance include Arromv and Dharitri whereas the police had attempted to project Suryaprava negatively by arresting its publisher on uninvestigated charges of cheating. The case of Bhubaneswar based EPA Weekly being subjected to group hooliganism is also placed in the White Paper.
Srimay Kar (Resident Editor, New Indian Express), Soumyajit Patnaik, (Chief Editor, OTV), Ashok Mohapatra, (Chief of MBC Tv), Prafulla Das ( The Hindu), Sandeep Sahu, (BBC), Manoranjan Mishra, (OTV), Gopal Mohapatra (Sambad), Basudev Mohapatra (HOTnHIT Newsfeatures), Ipsita Kumar Pratihari (Seashore TV), Madhu Mohanty (Odisha Bhaskar), Rashmi Mohapatra (Amari Katha) Girija Shankar Dash (Surya Prava), Kedar Mishra (Anupam Bharat) Lambodar Prasad Dash (Aaromv), Bhabani Shankar Parija (Amari Katha), Rajesh Samantaray (Kanak TV), Bijay Ketan Baral (Seashore TV), Malaya Ranjan Mohanty, Prasanna Kumar Behera, Monalisha Mishra, Kiran Kumar Kanungo, Bishnupriya Dash and a number of media persons representing print, electronic and web media attended the meeting.