New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India has written a letter to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressing concern over “growing incidence” of violence against journalists in the state.
“They have been subjected to mob attacks, intimidation, and threats, which is vitiating the environment necessary for the functioning of an independent and vibrant media,” the Editors Guild said in the letter dated 19 November, before citing last week’s assault on journalist Milan Mahanta.
On his way for a meeting this Sunday, Mahanta was allegedly attacked by a group of men who tied him to an electric pole and beat him up. A video of the attack, which Mahanta claims was triggered by his reports on illegal gambling and land grabbing in Kamrup district, has since gone viral.
Days before this attack, senior journalist Parag Bhuyan died after he was run over by a vehicle in an incident that many have labelled suspicious in light of his reportage on certain illegal activities Kakopathar. The Editors Guild of India has also cited the concerns surrounding Bhuyan’s death in the letter.
‘Culprits roam free’
The Guild has urged “urgent intervention by Sonowal” to assure media personnel of their safety.
“The manner in which Milan Mahanta, 42, who writes for Asomiya Pratidin and Dainik Asom, was tied to a pole by five criminals and beaten mercilessly, is a testament of the difficult environment in which the journalists work in Assam. A video of this assault has gone viral on social media. Mahanta, who has named the assailants, claimed that he was beaten up for his reportage against the Kamrup district gambling and land mafias,” the Guild stated.
“While we appreciate your firm condemnation of these incidents, the situation demands your urgent intervention to assure the media that they are safe to report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia. In the absence of that, a sense of impunity could embolden attackers who may believe that they are above the law,” the letter added.
The Guild noted that 32 journalists have been killed in Assam since 1991, but most cases “have not been resolved with allegations of shoddy investigations”.
“In many cases culprits roam free, intimidating the families of the slain journalists. We hope you will urge the state police to take necessary steps for rebuilding confidence in the media, so that they can operate without fear,” the letter read.