South Asian nations, like India and Pakistan, are emerging as dangerous places for working journalists. As the year 2017 completes half of its journey, the region has lost over 10 journalists to assailants. Most of the victims belonged to Maldives and Bangladesh, where as Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka has also significantly contributed to this mayhem.
The year started with a sad news for India as the dead body of a Jharkhand based scribe was recovered on Hazaribag locality in the first week itself. Hari Prakash, 31, whose body was found on 2nd January on a roadside, was missing for some days. The family members of Hari, who was a law graduate and used to work for a Hindi daily, alleged that he was kidnapped by the miscreants to finally kill the reporter.
Another bad news was waiting for the media fraternity as a Bihar based journalist was shot dead at Samastipur locality on 3rd January by some unidentified goons. Brajesh Kumar Singh, 28, received serious injuries on his head and died on the spot. It was the third assassination of journalists in Bihar within a year after Rajdeo Ranjan and Dharmendra Kumar Singh were killed last year.
The third and fourth incident involving the murder of working journalists were reported from Madhya Pradesh. Shyam Sharma, 40, who was engaged with a local evening newspaper was stabbed to death by miscreants at Anshul locality of Indore on 15th May. Shyam received multiple injuries and died on the spot. Meanwhile, the local police have arrested two individuals suspecting their primary role in the murder case.
On the other hand, Kamlesh Jain, 42, was shot dead in his office at Pipliyamandi locality of Mandsaur on the evening of 31st May. Kamlesh was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the attending doctors declared him brought dead. According to the police on duty, two miscreants entered into Kamlesh’s office and one of them shot him. The culprits quickly fled from the location with their motorcycle.
Engaged with a Hindi daily (Nai Dunia), the journalist lately exposed few local people involved in illegal liquor trades through a number of roadside Dhabas (restaurants). He was also threatened by those criminals with dire consequences few days back. The police as usual took prompt actions and arrested two individuals suspecting their role in the crime.
Various scribe’s bodies from Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh along with Journalists’ Forum Assam, Indian Journalists Union, National Federation of Newspaper Employees, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) etc expressed serious concern over the murder of the journalists and asked the responsible authorities to book the culprits under the law of the land.
Condemning the assassinations of Shyam and Kamlesh, the IFJ commented ‘two murders in nearly two weeks illustrate the dangerous conditions that journalists in India are facing’. The global media forum called on Indian authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate these murders and bring those responsible to justice.
In a recent statement, the IFJ disclosed that 93 journalists were killed last year around the world, where India contributed 6 victims to the list. Iraq witnessed the highest number of journo-killings (15), followed by Afghanistan (13), Mexico (11), Yemen (8), Guatemala, Syria, India (all 6), Pakistan (5) etc, added the forum representing over 6,00,000 journalists in 140 countries.
Pakistan lost four professional journalists and a media student to assailants in the last six months. Muhammad Jan, who was working for an Urdu newspaper in Baluchistan province, faced bullets from miscreants on 12 January and died later. A student of journalism (Mashal Khan) fell prey to an angry mob in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 22 April over the alleged blasphemy charge against him. Later a television reporter Abdul Razzaque was gunned down by miscreants on 17 May in Punjab province and another news channel scribe Bakhsheesh Elahi was shot dead by unknown gunmen on 11 June in Peshawar.
A senior journalist Zeba Burney, who was associated with journalism for 30 years, was found dead in her residence at Karachi on 19 June. Ms Burney, who used to work for Nawa-i-Waqt newspaper, was rushed to the hospital, where the attending doctors confirmed that it was a case of murder. Wife of late journalist Naeem Qamar, Zeba was an ex-office bearer of Karachi Press Club and her death invited strong protests from Karachi Union of Journalists.
The CPJ called on Pakistani authorities to investigate all the killings related to media persons and book the culprits urgently. The New York based media rights body also expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan, where many journalists and media workers got killed in the last six months. The victims, mostly killed in bomb explosion by militants, include Habibollah Hosseinzadeh, Mohammed Nazir, Amir Khan, Zinullah Khan, Abdul Latif, Md Ghani , Aziz Navin, Omar Arghandewal, Amir Shinwari, Md Zainullah, Sayed Agha etc.
Infamous for many atheist bloggers’ killings, Bangladesh witnessed the murder of one rural reporter at Sirajganj locality. Abdul Hakim Shimul, who used to work for Dainik Samakal, was shot dead on 2 February, when he was covering the clashes between two factions of the ruling party (Awami League). Bangladesh Manobadhikaar Sangbadik Forum strongly condemned the assassination, which was first in 2017.
A tiny nation like Maldives drew the attention of international media recently with the sensational murder of a prominent journalist and human rights defender. Yameen Rasheed, 29, who remained an outspoken critic of corruption & human rights violations in the island nation, was stabbed to death by miscreants on 23 April in the capital Malé and thus putting the small country in the list of risky nations with growing intolerance toward free information flow.
India’s southeast Asian neighbor Myanmar (also known as Burma or Brahmadesh) reported one murder in the first half of 2017. Wai Yan Heinn, 27, a Rangoon based weekly (Iron Rose) editor was killed on 16 April. The reason behind the stabbing of the scribe was however yet to be confirmed for his journalistic works. Besides local media units, the CPJ and RSF urged the Myanmar authorities to identify and bring the culprits to justice at the earliest.
Mentioning about a case (killing of Soe Moe Tun on 13 December 2016 reportedly for exposing illegal logging in his locality), the international media rights bodies expressed resentment that the concerned investigation had gone slow. Benjamin Ismaïl, the former head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, recently commented that Soe’s family was still waiting for justice, but in vain.
Lately three Myanmarese journalists namely Lawi Weng (The Irrawaddy), Aye Naing and Pyae Bone Naing (Democratic Voice of Burma) were arrested by the Burmese Army on 26 June from Shan State and put inside Hsipaw prison. Amnesty International has called the authority to ‘immediately and unconditionally’ release the journalists so that they can resume their journalistic works.
Other tiny neighbors of India including Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka along with Tibet (under China) etc have not reported any incident of journo-killings in the last six months. In contrast, the land of Mahatma-Buddha has emerged as one of the worst places for working journalists, where they are attacked deliberately and justices were rarely delivered to their bereaved families.
By Senior Journalist Nava Thakuria