SAMDEN: ‘Alarming pattern’ in attacks on media, ‘impunity recognises no borders’

New Delhi, 29 March 2018:Declaring that ‘impunity recognizes no boundaries’, 20 prominent editors and media figures from a media rights network across South Asia, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan today slammed the recent killings of journalists in India and Pakistan as illustrating a pattern of violence against media workers.

The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) said it condemned the killing of journalist Sandeep Sharma, in Madhya Pradesh, two journalists in Bihar and one in Pakistan. The alarming pattern of attacks against journalists, without successful investigations or convictions, points towards shrinking freedom of expression and anti-media tendencies in ‘democratic’ nations, and concerns the very right to life itself.

Sharma, a television channel stringer was run over by a truck on Tuesday. He  had recently conducted a sting operation exposing a police official in the area which showed the latter  accepting a monthly bribe of Rs. 25,000 in exchange for allowing sand mining in a protected crocodile sanctuary.

In another incident, a correspondent of the Daily Nawa -I -Waqt,  Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, was  allegedly shot dead  by a local political figure in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Butt apparently had a quarrel with the chairman of the Begowala Union Council and was reportedly shot by the latter, according to police quoted by the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP). The RMNP described it was the second killing of a journalist in Pakistan this year.

“These come two days after the alleged murders of two journalists in Bihar– Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, who were chillingly run over by a man driving a local leader’s car, and represent a burst of attacks on media workers in one week in India,” said the statement signed by Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), television personalities Karan Thapar and Rajdeep Sardesai as well as Himal magazine founder Kanak Dixit of Nepal and Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star, Dhaka.  From Pakistan, Ehsan Ahmad Khan Sehar, President Rural Media Network, supported the declaration as did London-based Rita Payne, President Emeritus of the Commonwealth Journalists Association.

They are demonstrative of the increasing violence being directed towards media person. Impunity recognizes no borders. Reporters in rural and areas vernacular media appear particularly vulnerable to arbitrariness and threatening conduct.

“SAMDEN calls on governments and political parties across the spectrum to ensure the protection of journalists. The Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar Governments as well as the Punjab government in Pakistan must ensure justice to both families and that the attackers are brought to book. SAMDEN is working to develop stronger networking in the region to highlight issues relating to media rights, and threats to freedom of expression.”

Signed 

  • Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI and founder, SAMDEN
  • Rita Payne, journalist and Media Adviser, President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association
  • Salil Tripathi, columnist, author, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International,London
  • Ehsan Ahmad Khan Sehar, President Rural Media Network Pakistan & Chief Editor Daily Nawa-I-Ahmedpur Sharqia, Pakistan
  • Kanak Dixit, writer and Founding Editor, Himal Southasian, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • John Zubryzcki, Sydney-based author, journalist and researcher
  • Sujay Gupta, Group Editor, Herald Publications, Goa
  • Mrinal Pande, writer and Editor, New Delhi
  • Preeti Gill, former Commissioning Editor, Zubaan, Publishing Consultant and Literary Agent
  • Imtiaz Ahmad, columnist, Professor of International Relations & Director, Centre for Genocide Studies, University of Dhaka
  • Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune and Yale Greenberg World Fellow
  • Karan Thapar, journalist and television commentator
  • Nidhi Razdan, journalist and Executive Editor, NDTV
  • Rajdeep Sardesai, journalist and Consulting Editor, India Today 
  • TN Ninan, journalist and Former Editor, Business Standard
  • Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star, Bangladesh
  • Sevanti Ninan, columnist and founder-editor of The Hoot
  • Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor, The Wire
  • Sagarika Ghose, journalist and Consulting Editor, Times of India
  • Tarun Basu, Director and former Chief Editor, IANS and President, Society for Policy Studies (SPS)
  • Kalpana Sharma, independent journalist, columnist, writer
  • Sandeep Dixit, Associate Editor, the Tribune, Chandigarh

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