'54 attacks on journalists in 16 months; parties, police worst offenders'
New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) As many as 54 attacks on journalists were reported in 16 months, mainly by "lawmakers and law enforcers", a report compiled by media watchdog Hoot said on Tuesday, a day ahead of the World Press Freedom Day.
The report said the actual figure could be much higher as a minister told Parliament that "142 attacks on journalists took place between 2014-15".
"The stories behind each of these attacks reveal a clear and persistent pattern. Investigative reporting is becoming increasingly dangerous.
"Journalists who venture out into the field to investigate any story, be it sand mining, stone quarrying, illegal construction, police brutality, medical negligence, eviction drive, election campaigns, or civic administration corruption are under attack," it said.
The attacks were committed by political parties and their leaders (8), police (9), and mobs resisting media coverage (9).
Apart from attacks, the report took into account invocation of sedition law, suspension of Internet services in a region, self-censorship on part of media companies, censoring of films and other arts, among other instances which may frustrate free functioning of the media.
The shutdown of the printing presses of two Kashmir newspapers after the killing of militant Burhan Wani, and the ban on Kashmir Reader for three months during the same period, were cited in the report as instances of media censorship.
Other such instances included a one-day ban on NDTV news channel for its coverage of the Pathankot attack last January, which "... supposed to have revealed strategic information about the operation".
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry however put the ban on hold after the channel approached the Supreme Court.
The sedition law was also used unsparingly and "went viral", as the report said.
"A large number of cases were filed -- 18 between January and June last year. By the end of the year, the figure was 40," it said.
The media watchdog cited examples of killings of Right to Information (RTI) activists, and appointment of 'bureaucrats' as Chief Information Commissioners instead of "persons of eminence in public life", as the concerned Act says.
"Currently, 91.6 per cent of Chief Information Commissioners in states are retired bureaucrats, as are 93 per cent of Central Information Commissioners," the report said.
Jammu and Kashmir suffered the longest and bans on Internet services the most -- 13 times in 16 months, with Haryana coming second with Internet suspension nine times in as many months.