New Delhi: No newspapers were published in Manipur Sunday after a day-long strike called by the Editors Guild of Manipur and the All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU), in protest against the hurling of a hand grenade inside the office of Imphal-based daily Poknapham Saturday evening.
No one was hurt in the grenade attack, allegedly carried out by underground insurgent groups, but journalists in the state warned that they were increasingly being caught in a pincer-like attack between insurgents and a hardline government that did not think twice about harsh action, including jail, if they didn’t like what journalists published.
“Underground actors are coming up again. At the same time, attacks from the state have also started. People are arrested and released on whim. The pressure is from the government as well,” senior journalist and author Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of Imphal-based news portal FPSJ Review of Arts and Politics told ThePrint.
Last month, the Manipur Police had booked the executive editor and the editor of online news portal The Frontier Manipur for sedition over the publication of an article that “openly endorsed revolutionary ideologies and activities”.
“There are about 400 journalists in Manipur. We know we cannot demand security for all. But we want the government to take action, arrest the accused. We are meeting the chief minister to demand safe working conditions for journalists,” Khogendra Khomdram, president, Editors Guild of Manipur, added.
The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim, who is also a Padma Shri awardee, recently moved the Supreme Court after the Meghalaya High Court refused to quash the criminal proceedings were slapped against her, because she wrote a Facebook post denouncing violence against non-tribals in Meghalaya.
“Manipur has seen constant attacks from non-state actors on journalists. If you don’t report verbatim from their (underground groups) release, there have been threatening phone calls and even attacks. In addition, there is a general climate of fear that we all feel in the present dispensation. The state should come down heavily on those who attack the media. But the state should also not oppress the media. We have cases in Manipur where journalists have had FIRs being lodged against them,” Patricia Mukhim told ThePrint.
“We are being attacked from all sides,” she added.
Attack on Poknapham’s office
On Saturday, an unidentified woman allegedly came on a scooter and lobbed a hand grenade inside the office of Pokhnapham in Imphal. The building houses the offices for both Poknapham and its sister publication, The People’s Chronicle.
“The incident occurred around 6.30 pm. Our security guard saw an unidentified woman come on an Activa scooter and lob a bomb. We went and inspected the bomb and saw that the pin was taped. This implies that the intention was to not hurt but only threaten us,” Imo Singh, editor, The People’s Chronicle, told ThePrint.
No underground group has, however, claimed responsibility for the attack so far. “We have submitted the CCTV footage to the police. But no arrests have been made yet and no underground groups have yet claimed responsibility,” Singh added.
‘Attacks on journalists not new’
Newspapers had remained off stands on 1 August last year after the editor of The Sangai Express came across a live mortar shell inside his office that was sent by a militant group as a “warning”.
Last year again, journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, associate editor with Frontier Manipur, spent two months in jail under sedition charges.
In February 2006, Ratan Luwang, general secretary of AMJWU and senior reporter with Poknapham, was injured after he was shot at by militants. In the same year, a group of local editors were detained overnight by a militant outfit after inviting them over for a discussion.
Despite such incidents, journalists said they will continue to carry on with their work. “We will continue to do what is newsworthy and inform the public about things they need to know,” said Singh.
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