Tripura journo killing a grim reminder of their vulnerability

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New Delhi, Sept 22 (PTI): Reporter Santanu Bhowmick’s killing in Tripura was a grim reminder of the vulnerability of small-town journalists, senior editors and media persons who gathered to mourn and condemn the incident, said on Friday.

A collective of media groups met at the Press Club of India here and passed a resolution demanding exemplary and time-bound action from the state governments and the Union Home Ministry against those involved in killing and intimidating journalists.

“The attacks on journalists is a worrying trend and unacceptable in a democracy like ours,” according to the resolution adopted at the meeting jointly organised by the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), Press Association, Federation of Press Clubs in India and the North East Media Forum (NEMF). IWPC general secretary, Aditi Tandon laid stress on the need to document each and every fatal assault on a media person, follow up on the cases and bring out status reports till the perpetrators are brought to justice.

The gathering also saw senior editors highlight the perils of bracketing journalists in political camps, the left or the right, and the “divisive propaganda” that they raise their voices only when high-profile journalists are targeted. “There is a pernicious, deliberate campaign to project that journalists come together only when someone from the big cities are attacked. It is a motivated campaign to create a rift between journalists. This kind of divisive propaganda must end,” senior editor Rajdeep Sardesai said.

The attempts to “polarise journalists” and the need to stand guard against “divisive forces” found mention in the resolution as well. The speakers also underlined the need for risk assessment on the part of media houses before sending reporters out on assignments, especially in conflict zones.

Senior editor Amit Baruah said the killing of Bhowmick, who was 28 years old, was in many ways a wake-up call for editors who assign tasks to reporters as well.

“As the majority of the journalists are without any social security benefits like pension or health insurance, and many of whom are sole bread-earners in their families, we demand that state governments establish journalist welfare funds to meet the conditions of precarious employment, social and health security of journalists,” the resolution said.

The meeting also demanded action against those involved in posting misogynist and threatening messages to journalists. Bhowmick, who worked with a television channel in Agartala, was covering an agitation by the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura in Mandai area of West Tripura on September 20 when he was hit from behind and abducted. Later, the scribe was found with serious stab injuries and rushed to Agartala Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared him brought dead.

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