Media in Chhattisgarh under ‘tremendous pressure’

Media in Chhattisgarh is under “tremendous pressure” from state government as well as Maoists with journalists feeling that “police is listening to every word we speak”, a report by Editors Guild of India has said.

There is a “general feeling” in the Chhattisgarh government that a large section of the national media is pro-Maoist, the report prepared by a three-member fact-finding team quoted a senior editor perceived as close to the government as telling them.

The team was send to Bastar region, one of the Maoist hotspot, following recent reports of arrests of journalists as well as some others forced to leave the region following protests anti-Maoist vigilante outfit ‘Samajik Ekta Manch’.

“There is a sense of fear in Bastar. Every journalist who is working in Bastar feels that he or she is not safe. On one hand they have to deal with Maoists who are becoming more and more sensitive about the reports appearing in the media and on the other hand, the police wants the media to report as and what they want,” the report said.

It said journalists find it even more difficult to gather and disseminate news and there is “pressure” from the state administration, especially the police, on journalists “to write what they want or not to publish reports that the administration sees as hostile”.

“There is pressure from Maoists as well on the journalists working in the area. There is a general perception that every single journalist is under the government scanner and all their activities are under surveillance. They hesitate to discuss anything over the phone because, as they say, the police is listening to every word we speak,” the report added.

On the recent arrest of a journalist Santosh Yadav, the report said it dismissed government’s claims that he was not a media person as two newspapers for whom he contributes have owned his contributions.

“Authorities claim that they have enough evidence about Yadav’s links with the Maoists. It is now for the court of law to decide where these evidences will be produced. But senior journalists in Raipur feel that he has been a victim of circumstances and he should be given benefit of doubt,” it said.

The team also asked media organisations to take care while appointing stringers and give them adequate protection.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 30, 2016)

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